Busch May Learn Lesson That ‘Karma’s A Bitch’
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas – The hangover from Kyle Busch’s lost weekend at Texas Motor Speedway could carry over into early next week, as officials from NASCAR and Joe Gibbs Racing mull the fate of stock-car racing’s pre-eminent Bad Boy.
NASCAR announced Saturday morning it had barred Busch, 26, from competing in today’s Nationwide and Sunday’s Sprint Cup series races here after he admittedly retaliated and crashed-out Ron Hornaday Jr. 14 laps into Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 350k.
NASCAR President Mike Helton said the suspension was carried out under Section 9-12 of the Rule Book, which gives the sanctioning body the authority to react during a race weekend.
“Under 9-12, it’s just an event reaction,” Helton said during a news conference in the Infield Media Center. “We’ll have to wait and see what Monday morning brings. But right now, this deals with the balance of the weekend.”
Helton also addressed the “Boys, have at it” policy which has loosened the constraints on driver conduct in a bid to raise the quality of competition and boost on-site attendance and TV ratings, terming it “the
most severe reaction” under such circumstances.
“The responsibility over the past two or three seasons we’ve given back to the drivers came, I think, with a very clear understanding that there could be a line that got crossed,” Helton said. “As annoying as the comments that I’ve made personally in the past about ‘We’ll know it when we see it’ might have been, we saw it last night.
“Obviously, after the event, a lot of folks put their heads together to decide what, if anything, we would do. Then what I’m telling you today is our reaction.”
Theoretically, NASCAR could issue Busch a monetary fine, a point deduction, place him on probation or decide to keep him parked for an indeterminate period. For this weekend, JGR teammate Denny Hamlin replaced Busch in the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry the latter qualified second to pole-sitter Elliott Sadler Friday afternoon for the seventh annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Nationwide event.
Meanwhile, Michael McDowell is the designated driver in the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Busch qualified 17th for Sunday’s seventh annual AAA Texas 500. Busch, one of 10 drivers eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, was seventh in the standings heading into Race No. 8 of the 10-event playoffs. Busch is 57 points behind leader Carl Edwards, and basically out of contention with three races remaining. After scoring no points Sunday, his elimination will be stamped “NASCAR Official.”
“This is a tough situation for us,” said Joe Gibbs, who owns the Toyotas driven by Busch in the Nationwide and Cup series. “Everybody here with our race team is trying to meet with everybody that was affected by this. Obviously, we got a lot of work to do there, a lot of people to see. But we’re going to be trying to go through this, try and handle everything in the right way.”
The No. 18 Traxxas Toyota Tundra Busch used as a battering ram Friday night is fielded by his Kyle Busch Motorsports. Gibbs said that did absolve him of accountability.
“It definitely rests with me,” said Gibbs, who met with Busch at his motorhome Saturday morning. “I think when you own something – you’re the owner – you’re responsible. So I think that question is easy for me to answer. I take full responsibility for it.”
Asked if the punishment fit the crime, Gibbs said, “I always trust NASCAR. I think they do a great job.
They manage the series. It’s grown because of them and the way they handle it. I have great faith in the decisions they make. We’ve been part of this for a long time. We love it. We love being a part of it. We love this sport. So I think our sport is where it is because of NASCAR and the way they handle things.
“This one is tough for us. But sometimes in life you go through tough things and don’t like it.”
Asked if he and JGR President J.D. Gibbs were considering any internal penalties, Gibbs said, “Yeah, I think right now we’re just trying to handle first things first for us. There’s so many people to consider, so many people to meet with. I think that’s our main concern this morning.”
Among those constituents is Toyota Racing Development. Lee White, president of TRD, issued a statement in which he gave the Gibbs organization the following vote of confidence: “Toyota remains 100 percent committed to its support of Joe Gibbs Racing and its drivers.”
Upset with contact initiated by Hornaday that caused him to brush the Turn 2 wall under green, Busch retaliated under yellow by pile-driving the four-time Truck Series champion front-end first into the wall exiting Turn 4.
Both drivers walked away from an incident that ended Hornaday’s shot at what would have been a record fifth NCWTS championship. Hornaday began the race tied for third in points with Johnny Sauter, each 15 markers behind leader Austin Dillon. Hornaday wound up 34th in the 36-truck field, one spot behind Busch, who was not eligible to compete for the NCWTS title under NASCAR’s “one-series” rule. Hornaday is now 48 points behind Dillon with only the season-ender at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18 remaining.
Helton basically cleared Hornaday – driver of the No. 33 OneMain Financial Chevrolet Silverado fielded by Kevin Harvick Inc. – of any wrongdoing in an incident that began in Turns 1 and 2 of the 1.5-mile quadoval and ended in the Turn 4 Safer Barrier.
“Our reaction was specifically around the driver of the No. 18 truck, and that was the extent of it,” Helton said. “The implication of the No. 33 truck being in the points battle in the Camping World Truck Series probably had a small impact on the reaction.”
Helton said he hoped Saturday’s decision would help define the boundaries of permissible aggressive driving, no matter the NASCAR touring series.
“I don’t know. I think the garage areas, the drivers the team owners, the crew members understand the difference between being responsible and crossing the line,” Helton said. “I honestly believe that they understand the difference.”
Former NASCAR driver and team-owner Kyle Petty partially agreed with Helton. “NASCAR got Kyle’s punishment right today,” said Petty, now an analyst on SPEED’s various TV broadcasts. “While many are saying on-track retaliation has gotten out of hand across the sport lately and something has to be done about it, I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think the history of Kyle’s action in the past – right, wrong or indifferent – forced NASCAR’s hand on this one.
“NASCAR drew a line with Kyle specifically, but I don’t think this tells us anything about where the line is in general when it comes to ‘Boys, have at it’ and all the on-track aggressiveness we’ve seen lately. But I will say that there is nothing worse than sitting in the motorhome lot watching someone else drive your car. That will be a tough one for Kyle to swallow. But whether or not it drives home the point to him, only time will tell.”
That last driver parked by NASCAR was Harvick, who was involved in an altercation with Coy Gibbs, one of Joe Gibbs’ sons, during a Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway in April 2002. Veteran NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace noted he was recruited to replace Harvick after he was suspended for the following day’s Virginia 500 Cup event on the half-mile oval.
Wallace also noted he was tabbed to replace 2004 Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, Kyle’s older brother, after he was suspended by team-owner Jack Roush following an embarrassing Saturday night traffic incident during a race weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
“The last two Cup drivers that got parked, I was the benefactor,” said Wallace, prior to making his record-setting 520th Nationwide Series start Saturday afternoon. “I was hoping they’d put me in Kyle’s car today – that was a joke.
“Let me share a real quick story with you. I grew up in a hurry. I got black-flagged probably in 1997 at Phoenix, NASCAR black-flagged me. And I said, ‘Screw NASCAR.’ And they said tell Kenny Wallace to be at the NASCAR hauler after the race, and I said no. A week later, I was fined $10,000. Me and my wife wrote the check out of our account, Kenny Wallace Racing, Inc. My hands were shaking. I literally wrote the check for $10,000, and they came real close to not letting me run the Nationwide race at Homestead-Miami.
“And Mike Helton said something to me I’ll never forget. And this goes true to Kyle Busch. Mike Helton told me these words: ‘I do not want to be the one to ruin your career.’ So when NASCAR’s president tells you ‘I don’t want be the one to ruin your career,’ they’re serious about that. This is not a free enterprise here. The money is, but not the sport. There’s rules, just like Major League Baseball. And I compare this situation to a dog collar. You got a collar around you. They zap you once, they zap you twice – and they zapped the hell out of Kyle Busch. And I think he gets it now, after 90 wins.
“They will ruin Kyle’s career if he doesn’t straighten out. They don’t care if M&Ms is his sponsor. They don’t care if he’s in the race for the Chase. They don’t care that all his employees have lost their bonus money. They don’t care that he took Ron Hornaday out of the championship chase. There’s major, major implications from this situation, and I understand them all.
“Remember – karma’s a bitch.”
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.com Comments