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Minter: When Owners Take Stage, It’s Serious

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 29 2011

Joe Gibbs and Kyle Busch were in serious moods at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Concord, N.C. – A driver should know the situation is serious when their car owner accompanies them to a press conference, as was the case with both Trevor Bayne and Kyle Busch at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday.

In Bayne’s case, it was a serious medical issue that was being dealt with, and thus the reason that both Steve Newmark, president of Roush Fenway Racing, and Eddie Wood, co-owner of the No. 21 Ford, were on hand as he faced the media for the first time since he dropped off the circuit because of an illness that has yet to be positively identified.

But all three were smiling throughout the session, as Bayne appears healed and scheduled to return to his action this week.

That wasn’t the case for Kyle Busch, who answered questions about his speeding incident as his Cup car owner Joe Gibbs stood in the rear of the room with a serious, stern look on his face.

Busch was apologetic. Gibbs emphasized the seriousness of the situation. One gets the feeling that this story isn’t over yet.

Kyle’s brother Kurt Busch had his own issues to deal with, namely the stinging criticism of his crew that has been delivered over his two-way radio during recent races.

Kurt Busch gives media a lecture. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

Busch also took a jab at the media.

“I always laugh and listen to you guys contradict yourselves because you say that you want us to be more colorful,  but all that you want to do to a driver is just thrash them when they show personality,” he said. “That’s what I’m going through with this radio and from now on, there’s not going to be anything on it except solid team communication because that’s all there needs to be.”

“Personality” was an interesting choice of words. “Disrespect” also came to mind.

Jimmie Johnson’s comments earlier this week about two-tire pit stops late in a race addressed an issue that has been on the minds of many of late. Johnson’s team, like lots of others, spends most practice sessions putting on four new tires every time they stop.

Jimmie Johnson says track position vs. tires will be big issue in the 600. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

So how does a race team prepare for a two-tire stop? And what is Johnson’s team going to do going forward, especially in light of the fact that the past two Cup races have been won by drivers who either took no tires at the final pit stop opportunity (Regan Smith at Darlington) or two tires (Matt Kenseth at Dover).

“It’s an area that we need to improve on from my standpoint of driving the car with two tires on it, from the setup standpoint of planning for those things through the course of a weekend,” Johnson said, adding that one step is to test a two-tire change during practice to see how the car reacts.

“If you think about it, in practice, every time we come in and put tires on, we put four on,” he said. “You set the car up to drive on four new tires. The car drives far different on two tires.”

The giant HD screen rising above the backstretch at Charlotte was put there to enhance the experience of the ticket-buying race fans. But one has to wonder if, after spending an afternoon staring at the big screen for much of a race, will fans eventually decide that it’s easier to stay home and watch the race on their own HD screen?

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 29 2011
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  • djones says:

    What do you think Gibbs will do to Kyle? I say a big nothing. Money is not an issue for KyB so fining him is out. I think sitting him out in the NW series for the season would get his attention. We know how he likes to race. Plus, it would keep Mark Martin’s most race wins intact. At least for another year.