“Take your whiny little ass back to the bus.”
Yep, that’s what the No. 18 crew chief Dave Rogers told his driver Kyle Busch over the radio Saturday night.
When you combine the above comment with Kyle Busch and a terrible day at the track, generally in the past we’ve decided that the Shrub was finally getting back all the negative energy he’s spewed over his career. However, after the conclusion of Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol, I can’t say I blame Busch or his crew chief, Dave Rogers, for getting more than a little overheated. Let’s face it; the No. 18 has had the kind of year usually delegated to those also-ran teams–not a top-tier ride. I expected far more out of Kyle Busch this year, whether I like him or not. He expected more. And all he’s been handed of late has been complete and utter crap.
Call it karma, if you will. No matter how hard the No. 18 has tried to excel this year, they keep getting handed their hat–usually through no action of their own doing. The last four races have been spectacularly bad: slapping the wall hard on Lap 4 at Michigan, scrunching his fender on the No. 78 at the Glen, and an engine failure back at Pocono all combined with Bristol’s mess to leave Busch 17th in the points standings. If he didn’t have the win at Fontana, there would be a very good chance that he’d miss the Chase.
We can all say that Busch’s meltdown, demanding he needed a whole new right front suspension right now, was just a fine example of Kyle at his typical worst. But really, it was no more than a driver suffering through a long, frustrating Bristol weekend. He lost the Nationwide race the night before after being jacked up on the restart. Then he was collected in the Lap 125 wreck Saturday night, after awarding himself a nice speeding penalty. The whole weekend had gone to hell in a hand basket, heck the entire month! With a wounded car and laps down, all Kyle had to do was just think about the previous three races and decide he had enough. Things had to happen for the better–right now.
Busch was correct. Something had to give. The fact that most of what needs to occur for the No. 18 is to be handed just a little bit of luck didn’t apply at the minute. You can call his grumbling unprofessional if you want, but what he and his crew chief really needed to do was clear the air and get their focus back on what they have control over. You can’t stop wrecks and the inevitable result of them at Bristol. You can rally your team together and get ready to go after it next week in Atlanta.
Which, according to Coach Gibbs, is exactly what happened. Rogers and Busch got together after the race and talked. They’ve got a game plan moving forward.
For many a year Kyle Busch has been branded a whiny, wildly talented kid who only knew how to tick off teammates and the media. That persona has certainly followed him through the seasons. However, he has made a concerted effort to be less…disagreeable of late. The fact that the old Kyle resurfaced for a moment this weekend simply conveyed to me that the hungry Busch is still in there. He still is seeking a Cup for his crowded trophy case. It’s blindingly obvious 2014 won’t be the year for that to happen.
Maybe for that realization and the Bristol Stomp combined, Busch earned a little bit of slack for his outburst. Maybe we’ll get the No. 18 back in shape. Maybe…there’s always next year.
First, we’ll need to see that team get its game back. And that includes the driver. Mr. Busch–it’s time to get your nose to the grindstone and win a few.
2014 Sonya Strictly by the Stats
Top Three Rookies for 2014 Irwin Tools Night Race
1.) No. 42 Kyle Larson Started 40th Finished 12th (1st in RoTY standings)
2.) No. 51 Justin Allgaier Started 19th Finished 19th (3rd in RoTY standings)
3.) No. 3 Austin Dillon Started 26th Finished 28th (2nd in RoTY standings)
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