Ingram: Childress Puts NASCAR In A Headlock
By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer
From the Monday Morning Crew Chief™:
Owning a Sprint Cup team is such a challenging undertaking that it’s required to be a labor of love as well as dedication. In a somewhat bizarre twist to this fact of racing life, team owner Richard Childress demonstrated his passion by pounding Kyle Busch in the garage at the Kansas Speedway.
One wonders if Busch’s own team owner, former NFL coach Joe Gibbs, was tempted to do the same thing a week or so earlier after being informed his driver got caught exceeding the speed limit by 83 mph near Mooresville, N.C.
In addition to extraordinary driving talent and ambition, Busch tends to draw retaliation. He ended up at Joe Gibbs Racing, for instance, because Rick Hendrick elected to fire a 22-year-old Busch, already regarded as extremely talented, for turning a deaf ear to the team owner’s leadership. Busch went on to win eight races in his first season with Gibbs, but the Hendrick team was still glad to see him elsewhere and continued to win championships.
Childress’s punch after the Truck Series race in Kansas will go down in the pantheon of fights that open with one punch and close shortly afterward, such as Jimmie Spencer clouting Kurt Busch in the
pits at Michigan in 2003 and Tony Stewart punching Kurt Busch in the NASCAR hauler five years later.
There’s a theme here. The Busch brothers tend to make folks angry enough to elicit a punch. What’s different in this case is the involvement of a team owner, one who had to know in advance that his actions would be determinental to the sport in the eyes of NASCAR officials and that his actions would draw a severe penalty.
You have to wonder if Childress is consciously trying to fire up his team by getting kicked out of the garage – pending NASCAR’s official announcement of penalties – in the same way a baseball manager chews the umpire’s ear until he gets tossed out. But the situation is more analogous to a manager bumping or striking an umpire. By punching Kyle Busch, Childress was dissing NASCAR officials.
At Darlington this spring, Busch wrecked two of Richard Childress Racing’s cars during and after the race. Despite all appearances, Busch declined to accept responsibility for intentionally spinning Kevin Harvick’s Chevy on the track – before putting it into the wall on the pit road. Both Busch and Harvick ended up with the same NASCAR probation, which evidently continues to rankle Childress.
Last year, Harvick was within shouting distance of the championship and Jimmie Johnson at Homestead, where Kyle Busch ran Harvick hard and close despite NASCAR’s ongoing request that drivers not involved in the title run give the contenders ample room in the season finale.
At Kansas on Saturday, Busch evidently decided to let RCR driver Joey Coulter know he didn’t
appreciate the rookie’s driving by tapping the RCR Chevy’s rear bumper on the cool down lap. Not content to let NASCAR’s lukewarm probation take care of Busch’s actions, Childress then let Busch have it in the garage, reportedly after being careful to take off his rings. After the punch, there was a headlock and more punching.
Who, Childress seemed to be asking, is Kyle Busch to be telling others how to behave?
There seems to be a larger issue of self-imposed pressure for Childress. At this year’s NASCAR Spint Media Tour in January, the team owner all but predicted a championship in the season beginning with the 10th anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500. So far, Harvick is on track to being in the thick of a title run at Homestead this year and perhaps will bring RCR its first championship since the days of Earnhardt. RCR’s Clint Bowyer is again in the running – as well as Kyle Busch.
I tend to think Childress has put NASCAR in a headlock just as he did Busch the younger in the Kansas garage. He’s made his point about Busch being a loose cannon, a driver who constantly tweaks NASCAR and its officials at the track or elsewhere, such as on the pit road at Darlington or on the roads near Mooresville. As for any penalties for Childress, they will only serve to rally Richard Childress Racing around its owner.
It was Harvick who looked hapless in Darlington while fruitlessly trying to punch Busch on the pit road. Busch simply motored away and wrecked Harvick’s Chevy by hitting it in the rear bumper. Childress finally landed that punch in Kansas.
Quote(s) of the Week: “We decided to let Richard stay, because there does need to be leadership of an organization represented, which, you know, historically we rely on crew chiefs. But since both organizations have multiple teams, we decided that it would be better if there was an authority from the team here. And there’s not a second level authority present this weekend from his organization. Joe Gibbs is here from Joe Gibbs Racing, and we chose to allow Richard to participate today.” –NASCAR President Mike Helton on the decision not to exclude Richard Childress from the garage at Kansas on Sunday.
“I feel pretty confident that it’s going to take really two wins to guarantee your way into (the Chase). So obviously we’ve got to do this again, and that ain’t easy. So I like the system. And I feel good about our chances. We just gotta keep moving forward and that’s what it’s all about.” – Kansas Sprint Cup winner Brad Keselowski on his chances of making the Chase on victories, which will also require a Top 20 finish in the points.
See ya! …At the races.
– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at email@example.com Comments