Race Weekend Central

What’s Vexing Vito: How Did Kyle Busch Miss Another Chase?

So Kyle Busch has missed the Chase for the second time in four years. How did it come to this? The three consecutive blown engines this summer? Hmm – I thought TRD was supposed to be the cure to all of the engine woes suffered by JGR last season? Wasn’t it Busch who opted to stay put with what worked all season last year while his teammates carried the TRD banner?

Once again, proof that having our own engine department helps ensure your performance, and puts quality control back into the race teams’ hands. Yeah, I know – Tony Stewart gets his engines from Hendrick Motorsports. He also gets his cars and engineering support from there too. Making it a Hendrick Motorsports car. Considering the five straight titles they won from 2006-2010 – and the two they nearly won in 2004-2005 – that’s probably not such a bad thing.

With the season in shambles, what is KyBu to do? Run some more truck races? Hop in the flat black No. 54 for the weekend? Word form JD Gibbs is that crew chief Dave Rogers isn’t going anywhere. Probably for the best since he’s proven to be the only crew chief who can handle Kyle, or at least tolerate him.

In all fairness to Kyle Busch, the failure to qualify for the Chase does not rest solely on his shoulders. He doesn’t build the exploding engines, oil down Watkins Glen (that was a fellow TRD TuRD) on the last lap or miss the one-to-go call from NASCAR when debating on whether or not to pit, and only having to beat one car that needed to be adjusted with freaking BOLT CUTTERS.

What are the chances the Busch turns it on and reels off a few wins in the Chase out of spite, running with reckless abandon? Eh, probably not that great. All eyes and attention will be directed to teammate Denny Hamlin – who is a consistently calm and positive force within the organization; not volatile, mercurial and self-destructive – and for prepping the next generation Car of Tomorrow bodies for 2013. Maybe that’s why Busch wanted the OK to start running some more Truck Series races – so he’d have a chance to win in something.

Of note, Hamlin has emerged as a leader and calming presence within JGR. With Matt Kenseth bringing veteran leadership, poise and a decade’s worth of Roush Fenway Racing processes and performance, is Kyle Busch’s value to Joe Gibbs Racing in decline? Guessing bailing on Happy Hour at MIS to compete in his Nationwide car in Montreal last month didn’t help acquire the extra point needed to make the Chase. Dave Rogers took the blame, stating he put the wrong shock package under the car.

Perhaps if his driver had been there to provide some feedback.

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Usually this time of year, I’d pump out some stat-laden pontification prognostication of each Chase race and who will win what. We can do that again this year, however I’ll spare you the 1800 word rationalization that usually goes out the window as soon as the green flag drops.

The Champ? Denny Hamlin. Bridesmaid? Brad Keselowski. The Chump? Jeff Gordon. Sorry, Jeff – I know you’re pumped to get in and well you should, but with the No. 48 being freaky fast on 1.5-milers looking for title No. 6 and Dale Earnhardt Jr., winding up the regular season second in points, it’s not looking so good.

Keselowski, Hamlin and Harvick are three drivers who don’t have any teammates in the Chase; I won’t count Stewart with his HMS affiliation. The MWR cars have speed, but they haven’t quite been here before, and Martin Truex Jr. needs to win a race this year before they can start counting Cups.

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One of the rumors circulating within the garage area is that Richard Petty Motorsports will become a satellite operation of Richard Childress Racing – much as the Wood Brothers are a satellite team of Roush Fenway Racing. At face value, this may seem sacrilege; everybody knows a bowtie doesn’t go with a cowboy hat and Ray Bans.

It’s kind of a slap in the face to The King and company that Ford is unwilling or unable to sign them up for another season. Keep in mind it was RPM who got Roush Fenway Racing pointed in the right direction, after nearly two years of traveling down the wrong road due to flawed data simulation and whacked out front-end geometry.

Now before you Petty partisans get your Pontiac and Plymouth panties in a bunch, take a deep breath and stop wielding that massive belt buckle at your monitor. The King’s seventh title in 1979 was won splitting time between Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles, and say what you will, the General takes care of their race teams. While long-time fans of Richard Petty would have loved to see a Dodge Charger with a 43 on it again, it’s not happening anytime soon. Pontiac and Plymouth have gone the way of Oldsmobile and AMC, and the options are dwindling.

Hey, as long as Richard Petty is atop of a semi-trailer with Dale Inman running stop watches next year, I could care less if they fielded a Fiat 500. These are tough times, and as the old adage goes, tough times don’t last – tough people do.

Count The King among the latter.

About the author

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

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