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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Beside the Rising Tide: The Kyle Busch Rule

You’d think Kyle Busch would have been too busy celebrating this weekend. But in a mind numbing case of biting the hand that feeds him, in victory lane after Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the Brickyard, race-winner Busch revealed that he feels NASCAR treats him unfairly and has an ax to grind with him. After all, he had had to make a last lap pass to claim the win in the race despite dominating earlier portions of the event. As evidence, Busch cited what he felt was an unnecessary caution flag late in the race. (on lap 71, the given reason for the caution being fluid on the track or suspicion thereof in the wake of Erik Jones‘s wreck. Jones, ironically, is an employee and quasi-teammate of Busch.) On the subsequent restart, Ryan Blaney just flat outdrove Busch, who elected to restart in the outer lane, and took the lead.

And it would seem a clearly bushed Busch felt the only way that could have happened was if NASCAR had thrown an unnecessary caution flag to try to deprive him of the win. He is after all the great and powerful Kyle Busch. Any time he lines up for an NXS race, it’s all but preordained that not only will he win but he will do so in dominating fashion and then smugly ask those gathered to fete his accomplishment.  How they could have possibly thought there’d be a different outcome? Weren’t they paying attention?

Let’s give the devil his due. Busch is a tremendous racecar driver, though a valid argument can be made he’s been blessed with some of the best equipment in the sport since he dragged his knuckles into the garage area as a rookie many years ago. After recovering from horrific injuries to his lower extremities suffered during the Daytona NXS race, Busch has made a remarkable comeback. Having found myself in physical rehab a couple times after injury, I can attest that physical therapy is a hellish process that occasionally leaves you ready to throw in the towel just wanting the pain to go away for a while. It’s a whole lot easier to take some of those pills rather than push your limits, and that’s in fact what makes Heroin, Inc. 2.0 such a lucrative business. In addition to the weekend sweep at Indy, in the last two months Busch has won three more Cup races and scored an additional win in the Xfinity Series. Those are gum-card stats in anyone’s league. As of right now, Busch is still 23 points out of the top 30, the last hurdle he has to clear to make the Chase.

And frankly that’s what I thought the “Kyle Busch Rule” was. NASCAR made the decision, despite a rule a driver had to at least attempt to qualify for every race to be Chase eligible, that they would waive the rule for Busch. After all, they felt horrible that Busch had been hurt when he augured into an unprotected concrete wall at an ISC track and “ISC” is just French for NASCAR, which of course is also run by the Frances. (It seems that the sport is run by Frances the Talking Mule sometimes but there’s no family relationship I’ve been able to find.)

I’m going to have to admit I took issue with that decision. There’s very little to dissuade a Cup driver from doing a little cherry-picking by running NXS and Truck Series events, which some have compared to MLB players competing in Little League games. One of the few disincentives to do so, and a reason some big name drivers have given not to run the Saturday races, is the possibility you could wreck, get hurt and mess up your day job, precisely what happened to Busch. To put it in terms working class people who have to ponder if they’re willing to commit to four years of payments to replace the wife’s 200,000-mile Explorer will understand, let’s say a fellow is a full-time union plumber making good bucks. He decides a few weeknights and weekends he’s going to moonlight as a bicycle delivery person to make some extra cash for a Myrtle Beach vacation with his family. But in the course of making a delivery, he falls off his bicycle and breaks his leg, leaving him unable to do either job. If he’d been hurt doing plumbing work, the company would have to pay him workman’s comp and hold his job for him until he was able to return with reasonable accommodations. But since our moonlighting plumber got hurt working a part-time job, those protections don’t apply. Busch might have served as a stunning example of why Cup drivers ought to leave the sport’s development series to up-and-coming drivers looking to make it to the big leagues. But thanks to the Kyle Busch Rule, it won’t. Of course, perhaps it helps to have your team’s sponsor be the Official Snack of NASCAR, too.

I’m not naïve. NASCAR throwing unnecessary caution flags (like say the one for two balloons on Sunday just as the race was degenerating into a parade) is a topic we’ve been discussing for over a decade, and if pressed I could do a little research to prove the phenomenon has being going on since time immemorial. Take a look at Richard Petty’s 199th career win at Dover if you doubt me. I’ve heard fans banter about “Jeff Gordon cautions,” “Dale Jr. cautions” and “Danica cautions,” unnecessary yellows that flew just as a big name driver was about to go down a lap to the leader. But I truthfully can’t recall any fan and certainly no driver, saying unnecessary cautions were thrown just to penalize them in particular. As I see it, NASCAR doesn’t give a flying fig at a rolling doughnut who wins just as long as the race is exciting and not a runaway. That’s what keeps the TV contract dollars inflated and puts butts in the seat.

If anything, I think, in an unremarkable and tepid season of racing that NASCAR would actually love to see Busch make the Chase. Think about it. A driver suffers grievous injuries before the season has even officially kicked off, but makes a determined comeback, wins a bunch of races and competes for the big prize. Mickey Rooney got filthy rich making movies with that sort of plot-line. The problem here is when the mainstream media, unused to covering the sport, is herded into a small room for some media availability with Busch, a good number of them are going to be put off, wondering how this guy who’s as likeable and intelligent as a banana slug warrants their attention and a few inches of ink.

Of course there have been other “Kyle Busch Rules” over the years as well. One of my favorites was the rule wherein if you’re moonlighting in the Truck Series and a championship contender in the series roughs you up early in the race, it’s not OK to just flat out park him by sending him windshield deep into the wall under caution. If you do, you’ll have to… gasp… sit out a Cup race. That incident with Ron Hornaday Jr. probably should have cost Busch his day job, which would have made him unique in that he’d been terminated by the biggest team for all three manufacturers in the course of his career. Frankly I don’t know if porcupines can become rabid, but if there is in fact a rabid porcupine out there, I don’t doubt he’s signed a driver development deal with Joe Gibbs Racing. Having been taught by the master, Tony Stewart, when he was with that organization, they’ve perfected the art of damage control and excusing away the inexcusable.

So as he gets ready to reap the rewards of making NASCAR’s ridiculous system of crowning a champion, perhaps it behooves his wife to carry two pacifiers so when either of her two family members start acting like imbecilic, infantile crybabies, she can pop one in their mouths to keep them from annoying anyone.

Some quick hits:

If I was still writing race recaps (and I thank Mike Neff for taking the cross of that deadline off my shoulders) this week’s In a Nutshell would have been: “Well that didn’t work, now what?” Despite great expectations worthy of Dickens’s Pip, the high-drag package that debuted at Indianapolis did little to nothing to improve the quality of the racing. If there were any slingshot passes I must have been napping and missed them. As per typical as of late, the only real drama was the first few laps after a re-start and in varying pit strategies playing out. You can’t fault NASCAR for conducting the experiment but it throws a big question mark into ring leading up to the same package being used at Michigan. Michigan has a bit more banking and a more conventional oval shape but clearly changes to the package have to be considered prior to that race. For all the talk about the high-drag package leading up to the event, there was little to no mention of it after the race, at least not on TV. Not surprisingly, social media outlets lit up with fans posting near unanimous dislike of what they’d seen.

I understand Indy is a great big place with a whole lot of seats, but the place looked near empty on Saturday and Sunday. Perhaps the late start time and a threatening weather forecast helped dissuade walk-ups from attending the race.

I’ve been told that I don’t understand TV broadcasting, and I freely admit that’s the case. I still don’t get how you can make a show about famous people when they’re only famous because they have a show despite a stunning lack of any appreciable talents. But I really don’t get why the NXS race on Saturday was on the NBC mothership while Sunday’s Cup race, one some folks will still term a “crown jewel” of the sport, got relegated to their cable sports outlet. I checked. Sunday NBC was showing volleyball, bicycle racing, oh and oddly enough, auto racing though in this instance it was something called “Global Rally Cross.” (I have no idea what that is, but I bet it’s covered in MTV’s fingerprints.) Really? Has stock car racing fallen that far down the sports totem pole? “Notice to our passengers, This is your captain, we’re just stopping for some ice. Thanks for choosing the Titanic for your cruising voyage.” I suppose I’ll leave TV decisions to the TV folks. These are after all the same folks who decided “Joey” was can’t miss “must see TV” right?

For the record, the Brickyard earned a 2.9 overnight rating, the highest of the nine races broadcast on cable channels this year. Given the typical bump in the ratings once the smaller markets weight in it will likely nudge those final numbers over 3.0. But the fact remains the ratings are substantially lower than they were on ESPN last year and down from a 4.6 back in 2011. I’m Utterly amazed. It appears that a whole bunch of those folks who said they were checking out did in fact leave.

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35 thoughts on “Beside the Rising Tide: The Kyle Busch Rule”

  1. So many tasty nuggets and truths to take from your buffet table regarding Busch. What I find utterly sheep like is the how the minds made of mush view how NASCAR “treated” his brother and how Kyle got hurt (as if driver have no clue as to the dangers) the NASCAR entity needs to pay and “make it right”. I do not believe for one minute the seemingly least disciplined race team is now all of a sudden on fire and perfect. Nope, I believe there is a agenda and the agenda is to make a “feel good” story for NASCAR that will make headlines like “Danica first female to win a pole” does, the way the “return of the 3 does, etc. Kyle Busch getting hurt in the lower series and soaring back against insurmountable odds, has a nice ring to it, according to NASCAR. Anybody who doesn’t believe that that this clown is still the same old same old and all of a sudden has sprouted angel wings, is a fool. Just look at his words the past month regarding the Xfinity series, his walks off in a huff and his arrogant words in Cup. His wife is happy, more pictures of her and her baby..but damn…tell me I am wearing a tin foil hat or not, I don’t care. This stuff is getting worse and obvious.

  2. i keep waiting for the end of this preliminary racing to the chase to end and we get a surprise gift that jeff gordon will make the chase. na$car needs to have butts in the seats and people watching tv. they won’t bend rules to ensure the stewart makes the chase even with a miracle, but miss first part of season cause of wreck in minor league race and hey, here’s the deal…..na$car needs a story line to keep us all busy and occupied not to focus on johnson ripping off wins once the chase starts and that #7 championship gets closer to reality for him.

    i find it interesting how the 2 hendrick drivers already in the chase have all but vanished off the radar. guess testing is going on with these 2 teams.

    it’s all a circus. house of mirrow and slight of hand tricks.

    • Janice, you know that Gordon being in the chase will make me very happy, right? I know, I know, its so shallow of me. What I really want is for him to be competitive if he’s going to make it, darn it.

      And you are right, it would put butts in the seats, but NASCAR doesn’t really care about that. The $$ from fans is minimal and not enough to make Brian willing to want to do things to make us happy.

  3. Both the Busch boys (as well as Stewart and Harvick) have the same disposition. When they win and things go their way they are fine, articulate and accessible. When things don’t go well they revert back to their adolescent, bird flipping, punk-ass attitudes. Some fans like that, some don’t.

    I am convinced that it is Kyle’s ego which keeps him taking chances and gives him the desire to “dominate” the lower series. He definitely doesn’t need the money. He probably has other things he should be doing (with a family and all). I can’t see any other reason why he still runs as many lower tier races as he does except that it strokes his ego.

    As for the tv folks there is only one thing I have learned and that is that whatever reasoning they use to make decisions is neither logical nor based on common sense. They are operating on a totally different set of rules than common sense would dictate given the parameters we see on the surface.

    • I can remember when Ken Schrader was praised to the heavens because he would race anything that burned petrol, had 4 wheels and involved the waving of checkered flags. I liked Schrader and still do, was nice to see him at Eldora. I guess Schrader’s demeanor was a little more easygoing than Kyle’s and it made him easier to like? But, nevertheless, he ran a lot of races down class and wasn’t criticized for it. Others have as well, Stewart comes to mind when he still prowled the bullrings in a sprint car until that unfortunate incident with the Ward kid. But, I don’t remember hearing much criticism of Tony racing against less financed teams. Martin, Harvick and other cup regulars have feasted on lower series races in the past and weren’t railed against the way Kyle is.
      Granted, Kyle has an attitude, especially when things don’t go his way. Hell, I’m 50 and I still get sour when things don’t go my way, too, it’s just that no one cares enough about my misfortune to stick a camera in my face minutes after it happened. But, I like the fire I see in Kyle. Shhhtuff goes wrong? He gets lit up. Same thing happens to one of the robotic corporate drivers and they just give a corporate answer. No thanks, give me some fire and passion. Say what you want about Kyle but, the fire and passion are there and easy to see. I like that and will continue to root for him.

      • Richie, you keep saying or defending that you will “root for him”, great, fantastic, yippie, but most on here have a different viewpoint of him and will continue to do so. We are entitled not to like him and you are entitled to like him. The pedestal that he gets put on is interesting even when he is complete idiot, which is often. Make excuses about fire, passion etc, all drivers do or the wouldn’t be at the top level. What people remember is how that passion and fire is handled when it doesn’t go your way. Because most act with grace and class when things don’t go their way I do not for one minute equate them as being “robotic corporate drivers”, I see mature grown men. Everybody can get mad once in a while, that isn’t the issue. When I hear the excuses of any bad behavior, it reminds me of a toddler totally out of control and the mother going “well he has passion”..yeah and?

      • Richie, you’re entitled to like who you like and that’s awesome, but I doubt that you will convert anyone who roots for another driver to suddenly embrace Kyle Busch.

        I have always thought it was interesting (from a distance) to watch Stewart and both Busch boys act like crazy people when things aren’t going their way and then become “nicer” when things are going their way.

        Let’s face it, racing is a tough business and requires a certainly level of mental toughness, but along with that, there needs to be finesse and class and the way you act when you are losing or things aren’t going your way is a better indicator from what I’ve seen of how a person’s true character stands out.

        • Whoa there kb and Gina, I’m not trying to convert anyone. If I came across that way, my apologies. Please, continue to hate Kyle, it just makes this hot streak he is on more enjoyable. When he cools off and has a bad day, ya’ll be sure to gloat about that. It’s quite entertaining.

          • Richie, you obviously don’t get it based on your response. Sorry to see that.. although not surprising.

          • Richie, I felt the same way when Gordon was winning everything in sight in the 90’s. People hated him the same way that you think we hate Kyle now.

            You are mistaken about me since I don’t “hate” Kyle. I don’t like him, I don’t cheer for him but I am not wasting energy on hating him.

          • Gina, I can certainly relate to that. Didn’t like Jeff then and still not a fan of him. I know you will miss him on the track after this season but, I certainly won’t. This hot streak for Kyle will probably soon end and the news about him will die down and we’ll all be up in arms over something else. Probably some boneheaded move by NASCAR that we’ll all be criticizing and agreeing on! LOL

      • I feel like a professional athlete should make peace with the fact that they going to win every game or race when they step out on that field or track and deal with it like an adult. All of them have lost it at one time or another but it shouldn’t happen enough to define them.
        But that’s just me.

  4. Just another exampleo of 8the old adage “life ain’t fair Otherwise a big a jackass as Kyle would not be so exceptionally takented.

    • You could make a valid argument that Marty Sheen was a talented actor with a great comedic presence. But eventually he crossed the line a few too many times (think Tiger Blood) and trashed the producers of the number one TV hit he’d been instrumental in developing. So they went ahead and cut ties with him and he’s still struggling to land a good gig. Being blessed with talent doesn’t mean others have to be cursed with your attitude.

  5. The sports world is full of arseholes with championship rings. They’re still arseholes and they’re still champions. If you have to be a nice “aw shucks” sort of guy to be champion, let’s just stop the chase charade right now and hand the trophy to Jamie McMurray and be done with it. While I wouldn’t bet against Shrub, he has a habit of breaking under the strain of running for the title and he’ll probably oblige us with his usual chase meltdown again this year. As always, it will be fun to watch.

  6. You folks at write articles or entertaining, well I believe you are, but let’s set the record straight, AJ Foyt, was a jerk, par Nelly Jones taught lessons in being a jerk, Andretti, I love pizza, have you guys got the gist, of what I’m saying I won’t repeat all of the names because you guys have covered them quite well, unless you’d like to go into the basketball, goal about football, , football club owners, might as well throw some baseball owners in their two, perhaps you guys are missing the point, they are very competitive people and this is how they act do I agree with it, will one last point about the networks, how and the hell do you think these people are going to make these million dollars in salaries per month if they don’t jam commercials down our throat and hype the hell out of everything else they do, perhaps lawn tennis should be your cup of tea I’m thinking of changing.

  7. I hate Kyle Busch the same way I hate a villain in a movie, for entertainment purposes only. Though he does seem to be a volcanic asshole I’ve never met him so he isn’t real to me. Rooting for him or against him, what difference does it make as long as one finds it entertaining. I could care less what other fans think about him and wonder why anyone would care what I or anyone else think about him let alone take offense. I will admit though that I find the “let’s find something to hype” jock slobbering press annoying without being either entertaining or informative. And, I really hate that a half dozen Cupholes with personality disorders have rendered the secondary series unwatchable thus robbing them of any entertainment value at all.

  8. Hey thanks Mike for a great article. So much fun reading the comments. I usually scroll down to see how many comments there are on a Frontstretch article and if it’s over 4 I’ll read the article instead of just scanning it. You do know how to get them fired up! Where I’m from we call it “stirring the turd”. Almost like the “Donald” making one of his comments and then seeing what the repercussions are going to be. ?

    • Well Dan, thanks for taking time to read my stuff or even scan it. I enjoy a spirited debate with others who feel differently on topics. But just as a side note, it’s “Matt” not “Mike.” Mike McLaughlin was a long time modified and Busch series driver and he’s not me.

  9. Is “Well that didn’t work, now what?” like “back to the drawing board?”

    Kyle Busch needs to have a talk with JimmY Spencer and run a few laps with Pops.

  10. “Has stock car racing fallen that far down the sports totem pole?” Yes Matt it has. It is now back to niche status. Something fans need to start accepting when NBC/Fox keeps putting races on their 2nd tier channels.

    Of course Nascar wants Busch in the Chase and they are hoping upon hope that he gets into the Top 30 so they don’t have to use the “Gordon Rule” to get him in. It appears he is safe to get in, but I was really hoping to see how Nascar would it if he didn’t make the Top 30. Would they put him in anyway due to his 4 wins and sidestep the rules again or would they stick to their guns.

  11. Richie, if we all liked the same driver, it would take one of the things that was most fun about NASCAR away — and NASCAR’s already done a fair amount of taking the fun out of things w/o that.

    I used to go to the Dover races with a big group – 4 busloads of people who all pulled for different people and manufacturer’s – some of the best times were spent talking trash.

    You are right, I will miss Gordon on the track but I won’t miss the weekly silliness of NASCAR and its inept management. More than anything else, the direction that BZF has taken the sport (straight into the toilet IMO) is the reason why I won’t pick another driver and continue on.

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