NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Beside the Rising Tide: Busch’s Radio Nowhere

This is Radio Nowhere
Is there anyone alive out there….

Something odd, almost unprecedented as of late, actually happened Saturday at Fontana. Kyle Busch was entered in an XFINITY Series race but didn’t win! Oh he gave it the old college try and almost pulled it off, but a bizarre set of circumstances unfolded that conspired to cost Busch the win despite his having led 133 of 150 laps–right up to the penultimate lap.

Some explanation is necessary here for those of you who missed the race (which was a large majority of you based on recent TV rating for NASCAR’s AAA series) or those of you who might have been lulled into a nap watching Busch once again dominate a Saturday event. Yes, Busch led the most laps yet again, but at least this week several challengers made a run at him before suffering foul fortune themselves. Kyle Larson in particular seemed determined to deprive Busch of his fourth consecutive NXS win before cutting down a tire. Busch seemed to have the race well in hand but there was some question as to whether he had enough gas left in the tank to finish the race. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Erik Jones, was on the same pit cycle and ran out of gas with three laps left to run. With a big lead, Busch didn’t just slow down at that point; he dropped anchor in an attempt to nurse his car to the finish. At that point, he dropped out of the racing groove to avoid getting run over and might have run over some debris that cut down his left front tire. The tire came apart and trashed the left front fender of Busch’s Camry. There was no question that there was debris all over the track in far greater quantities than NASCAR typically determines is sufficient to warrant a caution, but the yellow flag remained furled.  Busch kept driving as best he could but was passed by the third JGR driver, Daniel Suarez, who promptly ran out of gas and dropped to the apron out of contention. Coming to the white flag, Busch looked like he might go ahead and win after all, despite the extensive damage to the left front of his car, but coming from about a half lap down, Austin Dillon was coming full steam ahead trying to beat Busch to the line. As Dillon went outside to make the pass Busch swerved hard right, putting Dillon into the wall. Dillon was having none of that and kept his foot buried, passed Busch and won the race by the official margin of .714 seconds. That might seem like an eternity compared to a few Cup races this season but it was a lot smaller gap than last year’s winner of this event, Kevin Harvick, had over second-place Brendan Gaughan, 3.317 seconds.

(Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)
Kyle Busch wasn’t happy with the outcome of Saturday’s NXS race, one that ended with him nixed from victory lane and he had some harsh words for NASCAR afterwards. Will that wind up getting him fined? (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

The race finished under the green flag, not caution, and Busch was credited with second place. Roush Fenway Racing driver Darrell Wallace, Jr. was scored third, though his car failed post-race inspection. Suarez managed to coast his out-of-fuel mount home fourth. From where I sit, Busch’s move to take Dillon out wasn’t very sporting but nor should it warrant a lot of hand-wringing. At Phoenix last week Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards were beating and banging into each other, metal bending and tires smoking as they fought it out to the line. That finish was termed as one of the best in series history, the sort of racing that our illustrious leader terms “quintessential NASCAR.” I agree. Now with one driver in a badly damaged car not up to full speed trying to wreck another driver trying to pass him at full song coming to the stripe, that muddies the water a bit, but I wouldn’t expect Busch, or any other driver for that matter, just to roll over and accept defeat. And one does have to question why that caution never flew though it might not have mattered. Even under caution a driver must maintain “reasonable” speed and it would have been a judgment call as to whether Busch was running a reasonable speed at that point though he was clearly pedaling as hard as he could in what was left of his car.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t the contact with Dillon at the end of the race that might have Busch in hot water, it’s his conduct after the race. A clearly furious Busch stormed off without doing any post-race interviews or going to the media center as is required of the top three finishers of the race. OK, I get it. Busch was upset he lost a race he seemed to have in hand (what’s the old line about a bird in hand being worth two in the Busch?), and most, if not all, race car drivers find it easier to be gracious in victory than in defeat. It’s that sort of passion and unrelenting determination to win that allowed them to rise through the ranks to the top tier of the sport. Another old line goes something along the lines of “show me a gracious loser and I’ll show you a loser.” Yes, Busch is at the extreme end of the spectrum compared to a driver like his Sunday JGR teammate Carl Edwards. Edwards in similar circumstances still manages to smile and exclaim that dang, he was disappointed he led 199 of 200 laps but had his engine blow coming out of turn four, but up until then he was just having the time of his life because he loves NASCAR racing and his sponsors so much. And even Edwards said after last week’s Phoenix race he probably should have gone ahead and just wrecked Harvick for the win. Busch doesn’t do warm fuzzy feelings. His mindset is more like if someone has defeated The Great and Powerful Busch, then clearly he was done dirty and someone else is responsible for the loss.

Had he simply stormed off to his trailer to cool down (and it might have been advisable to give him a few minutes to calm down before speaking as other drivers have done in the past, sometimes even telling reporters they need a minute to chill out), Busch probably wouldn’t face censure. In this instance, the broadcasting network had painted themselves and Busch into a corner with a clearly optimistic time slot for the race that had expired before the checkered flag flew. After the race, viewers heard only from race winner Dillon, who didn’t think much of the way Busch had run him coming to the flag. Fans didn’t get to hear how Suarez felt about coming within a hundred yard of his first NXS win only to run out of fuel. My guess is he wasn’t happy about that set of circumstances. That opens an interesting question. Suarez’s primary language is Spanish, so if a frustrated driver curses a blue streak in a language few if any viewers understand at the time, can he still be fined for use of bad language? If so, is the fine in pesos rather than dollars?

But what really has series officials grinding their teeth is Busch’s comments on the radio, helpfully enough broadcast on TV after the fact, that went along the lines of “Debris all over the race track and they don’t throw a yellow. I’m just so pleased with you NASCAR. Thanks. Y’all are awesome. Fixing races..” That is definitely coloring outside the lines under NASCAR’s code of conduct, revised in February to forbid any driver from disparaging the sport or NASCAR leadership.

Did Busch have a point? I’ve read where a lot of people felt that somehow the rules for what warrants a caution are different with one or two laps left in the race and a potential exciting finish at hand. Really? What if it’s three laps…or four…or five to go? What if the leader has a twenty second gap over second place, neither of those drivers are involved and the finish is all but preordained? It’s a slippery slope when NASCAR begins tweaking the rules to try to ensure exciting finishes. I know I’m not the only race fan still grinding his teeth over the finish of the ’07 Daytona 500. On the final lap, there was a huge wreck with cars upside down and on fire in a huge smoking pig pile of an accident, but NASCAR let the race finish under green, giving Harvick the chance to pass Mark Martin who would have claimed one of the few prizes he never earned during a storied Cup career had the yellow flag waved in a timely manner.

Did the fact Kyle Busch was leading play into the call not to throw the caution? Let’s face it, Busch has been stinking up the show in NXS races this year. After sitting out the Daytona NXS race (probably at the insistence of team owner Joe Gibbs after Busch’s nasty wreck in the same race last year), Busch had won three straight NXS races and led 88% of the laps in doing so. A fourth win, no matter what the circumstances, would have furthered the impression that Busch was just shooting fish in a barrel on Saturdays. (To a more reasoned mind, it’s not just Busch. The entire JGR NXS outfit has been heads and shoulders above the rest of the pack this year.)  Clearly FOX was getting a bit antsy that Busch’s domination was making the outcomes of this year’s Saturday races all but preordained. The boys in the booth spent a lot of verbiage early in the event talking about how danged exciting the race was, how it was only going to get more exciting as the race wore on, and gosh-darn it the whole NXS season had already been already been so exciting this year which might have confused those who had actually watched those races. Had you chosen the word “exciting” or some form of it as the keyword in a drinking game Saturday, you and your guests would have been part of a mass airlift to the local hospital to have your stomach pumped before the fifty-lap mark of the race. Part-timer Brad Keselowski in particular sounded like a Holy Roller as the first bag of rattlesnakes entered the church in those segments. I guess FOX decided if they said frequently enough this year’s NXS races had been exciting we’d all believe it because they said so on TV, just as my generation grew up believing four out of five dentists were actively hawking Trident gum at their practices.

In the end, is it fair that a driver might be penalized for something he said over the radio anyway? Some would term that a private means of communication between the driver, his spotter and his crew chief used during the course of doing their jobs. NASCAR no longer allows teams to scramble their radio frequencies as teams like Junior Johnson’s used to do to keep eavesdroppers from knowing their strategy. And for a lot of fans listening to those scanner transmissions at the track or on the internet is an exciting part of their race weekend. I do recall way back when in an era where on the pace laps of the races, a member of Dale Earnhardt’s Goodwrench #3 team used to welcome the fans that were monitoring their channel but warn parents that the language tended to get a bit blue on their frequency time to time. In this instance FOX chose to broadcast that radio snippet (payback for Busch refusing an interview with their pit reporters?) So again to use a hackneyed old saw, if a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound? If a radio transmission doesn’t get televised is it ever heard?

Busch seemed intent on waving a red flag at the raging bulls in Daytona Beach even after the valium had time to kick in. He tweeted that it was probably for the best he didn’t actually speak his mind to the press after the race because it would have landed him in even more trouble. As such he expected a “discount” on whatever fine NASCAR sees fit to issue him. Yeah, well there’s that. With an off weekend ahead and a goodly number of sports fans focused only on college basketball, NASCAR could probably slip in a whopper of a fine this week with without attracting much notice.

Truthfully, I don’t recall the last time NASCAR fined or disciplined a driver for a radio transmission, though there might have been a couple incidents where drivers used racial slurs they got called on the carpet. NASCAR has fined drivers for the use of profanity even in victory lane perhaps most notably penalizing Earnhardt Jr. at Talladega for using a cuss word now so accepted that it turns up regularly in political speeches and debates. But when it comes to accusations that they are fixing or manipulating races NASCAR has little tolerance. Maybe the accusations hit a bit too close to home for them. When NASCAR added the language and warnings about disparaging the racing or NASCAR leadership it sounded a bit too North Korean for me. (Fortunately the rule only applies to NASCAR members not writers or by now I’d probably have racked up more fines than Carl Long.) As for the issue at hand, why didn’t the yellow flag fly on the last lap of the race and was it fair that it didn’t? Of course it was fair. Why was it fair? Because NASCAR says it was fair and the good Lord help any driver who disagrees.

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Bill B

I believe you just called Carl Edwards a loser for being gracious in defeat.

So what would have been the cause of the caution? Cars running out of gas? Busch’s tire blowing up?
If it was Busch’s tire and NASCAR had thrown a caution it would have handed the race to Busch. He did make it to the finish line and, since it was the last lap, there would have been no pace car to pick up the field or any minimum speed to maintain. Why should the driver that causes the caution benefit from it by being awarded the win? NASCAR had to let that race play out.

I will also add that I thought it was a total dick move by Busch trying to take Dillon out on that final lap.

Every time I think Busch has turned the corner on growing up he proves that he still acts like an adolescent if things don’t go his way. I had actually started warming up to Kyle because I thought he had turned a corner. Now I know it was just because things went his way last year. What a putz.

DoninAjax

The British term wanker is more appropriate for Kyle. In fact, he may be over-qualified.

kb

lol….bahahahahahahaaaaa.

janice

he just threw his typical tantrum. as i say a leopard can’t change his spots and regardless how many cute family photos there are of him, his wife and child, underneath all that sweetness is still kyle busch.

i’d be interested to see if na$car fines truex’s crew chief for twitter post about logano after the cup race.

na$car is pushing the first amendment rights of individual, kind of like a lot of folks lately.

salb

Anyone who thought Kyle had ‘mellowed’ was guilty of wishful thinking. Easy to be gracious when all goes your way…like being allowed to run for a title because the powers that be felt guilty you were injured in a race you had no business running in. Temper tantrums are standard behavior in the Busch family. Nice example for the defending ‘champ’, and that’s what might get him fined.

GinaV24

I don’t bother with the AAA series races any more. With the takeover by the Cup drivers, plus the presence of the annoying Mikey in the booth, there’s no reason for me to care. I heard about the ending of the race though from someone who did watch and thought it was good to see KyBu lose the race. I wound up seeing it in replay.

Bill B, like you, I thought perhaps last year he had turned a corner and would stop doing the spoiled brat routine, but nope, he’s right back at it. I don’t expect anyone to be happy that they lost – that’s not what competition is about, but being a total jerk about it is another thing altogether.

Seems to me that KyBu did the same thing (stayed on the track) at the end of the Cup race, too.

Broken Arrow

I thought you were gone, Regina. Please keep your promise and leave already!

(And we know you watched the whole thing to catch a glimpse of lover boy.)

Rod

After Kyle Busch had his Typical Tantrum, You would have thought he lost the Sprint Cup Championship on that race. He will NEVER change.

Echo

I for one don’t care, I like Kyle Busch and if he throws a tantrum, so what. Plenty in Nascar before him have done just as much if not more so nothing new there. He is more angry at himself than anyone else and just takes it out on Nascar. He is refreshing for sure and did I mention he can drive a 3 legged car like nobody else. Dale Jr has a Busch league car for Cup drivers and so does JGR and Penske, along with others like RCR so why not Kyle is what I say. Mark Martin was the lone cup driver to dominate the lesser series for years and years and nobody cried about that as much as they do Kyle.
Who said Harvick is the ” closer ” ! 20 second place finishes in 78 races with SHR sure doesn’t look like a closer to me. Jimmie & Kevin have finished first and second 14 times and Jimmie has beaten Kevin in 12 of those 14. Oh and Jimmie has beaten Kevin the last 9 times straight when it comes winning time. Jimmie is the real closer in Nascar, bar none.

Broken Arrow

Glad to see there is another honest person who dares to post on Fronstretch, Echo!

Broken Arrow

I am glad to see the fire back in Rowdy. He is not a phony like Edwards who will smile will putting a dagger in your back. “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser” are the truest words in sport. As for the interviews, I would be fine with only the winner being interviewed and even that is usually a waste of time with 5 minutes of suck-ups and no real insights or honesty.

Broken Arrow

edit to say “while putting a dagger in your back.”

Note that Edwards once tried to strangle Kevin Harvick. Understandable sentiment, but hardly good sportsmanship. But then, Matt wouldn’t know good sportsmanship if it bit him in the arse.

Old_Timer

… ain’t it funny … … … how many times has a: a) driver; b) crew chief; c) fans; d) all of the above … accused NASCAR of “fixin’ the race” by throwing a caution … … … now, NASCAR is accused of “fixin’ the finish” by NOT throwing a caution!!

The jocularity never ends!!

tcfromaz

Two things you learn here. Kyle is a polarizing figure, (I like his talent) and Matt has a pretty thin skin.

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