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Woody: The Law Of The Jungle Has Its Limits

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 8 2011

Kyle Busch hits the wall and Ron Hornaday Jr. slides down the track as a result of The Wreck at Texas Motor Speedway last Friday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

When NASCAR told its drivers, “Boys, have at it,” it really didn’t mean it.

At least not in a Darwinistic, fang-and-claw, survival-of-the-fittest sense.

It didn’t mean it was going to entirely turn the jungle over to the animals. But apparently Kyle Busch took it literally.

After Kyle turned Texas Motor Speedway into the OK Corral during last Friday’s truck race, NASCAR sat Kyle down and explained the facts of life to its resident demolition driver.

Fact: NASCAR runs the show.

Life: It can get along without you.

Young master Busch was sent to bed without any supper, parked for the next day’s Nationwide race and well as Sunday’s Sprint Cup main event.

It wasn’t an unprecedented action – Robby Gordon and Kevin Harvick both had been given similar cross-over penalties in the past – but Busch’s was particularly stinging because he is one of 12 drivers

Kyle Busch was relegated to a seat on his pitbox for Sunday's Sprint Cup race. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

eligible for the Cup championship.

There remains a murky area in NASCAR’s Book of Etiquette concerning Busch’s hammering Ron Hornaday Jr. into the wall during last Friday night’s Texas truck race:

How rough is too rough?

How does a driver know when he’s crossed the line?

Is there a line?

Who decides where it’s drawn and when it’s been crossed?

Most NASCAR fans remember Dale Earnhardt deliberately punting Terry Labonte into the chicken-bone section at Bristol Speedway one hot summer night. Earnhardt wasn’t parked for any subsequent races. What was the difference in what he did to Labonte and what Busch did to Hornaday, other than down and distance?

NASCAR’s fuzzy rules and selective enforcement is not a defense of Busch’s boorish behavior. I though he should have been taken to the woodshed for smashing the Gibson guitar trophy to smithereens at Nashville Superspeedway a few years ago. NASCAR let him slide, and in doing so encouraged future antics.

Richard Childress put Busch over his knee for wrecking one of his trucks prior to the Texas incident, but that attitude adjustment didn’t take. Apparently he required a refresher course.

I imagine the lesson was not lost on Busch’s Cup team owner Joe Gibbs. I like Joe, but he has a reputation for running a loose ship when it comes to driver discipline. He let Tony Stewart run wild, just as he has Busch. Like a parent who refuses to lay down the law to a rambunctious kid, Gibbs is doing his young hot-heads no favor by letting them slide. He simply reinforces their belief that the rules don’t apply to them and that if they’re talented enough – and both Stewart and Busch are among the best ever to strap on a helmet – the rules don’t apply to them.

NASCAR has to walk a fine line. It needs more action and more exciting racing, but at the same time it can’t let the drivers runs amok.

Would NASCAR have parked Busch if he had been leading the Cup standings? I doubt it. But the fact that he was realistically out of contention made it an easy call and a good time to send an over-due message.

Maybe cooling his heels allowed Kyle time to cool his head.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 8 2011
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