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Did Busch Receive Lifetime Achievement Penalty?

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 12 2011

Joe Gibbs and Kyle Busch held a press conference at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

On the day he announced that Kyle Busch would be parked for purposely wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr., NASCAR president Mike Helton said the driver’s controversial past had nothing to do with the penalty.

Some in the garages at Phoenix International Raceway this week don’t seem to believe that.

The Busch-Hornaday incident occurred in the Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway eight days ago. It started when the two came together on the race track. After a caution came out for that relatively minor wreck, Busch tracked down Hornaday and rammed him from behind.

Both trucks spun into the wall and both were damaged beyond repair. At the time, Hornaday was in contention for the series championship.

The next day at TMS, Helton held held a news conference and announced that Busch, who was still mathematically in contention for the Chase championship, would not be allowed to compete in the Nationwide or the Sprint Cup race at the track.

Helton said that the penalty was “just an event reaction”. That is, Busch’s penalty was not the result of what some view as improper behavior in the past.

Jeff Gordon's car after run-in with Jeff Burton at Texas last year.(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR)

But at Phoenix, some were apparently not buying that.

Like four-time champion Jeff Gordon, who has been in Hornaday’s situation. At Texas, even, where he believes he was intentionally spun by Jeff Burton in the past.

“I kind of ran through my head to try to figure out what the different between what Jeff Burton did and what Kyle (Busch) did,” Gordon said. “I think that the difference was that Jeff Burton wasn’t on any kind of probation earlier in the year or the year before or the year before. He wasn’t a focus. He’s (Burton) a driver that doesn’t do things like that very often and he didn’t have a track record.”

Burton and Gordon got out of their cars after that incident, which happened in November of 2010 at TMS, and got involved in a shoving match on the track.

Neither was parked.

“I think that to me,” Gordon said of Busch, “it’s just more than anything, it’s the incident itself as well as kind of trying to make a statement. It doesn’t seem like there’s been enough to get Kyle’s attention to say this is unacceptable. I’m not saying he’s ever done exactly that before, but other things before that probably led into it to say to NASCAR, ‘This can’t happen again’.”

Jimmie Johnson, the five-time and defending champion also indicated that he thought Busch’s past may have played a role in the penalties.

“I think the (truck series) championship implications had something to do with it,” Johnson said.  “I think he was on probation – no.  I don’t have a clue.  Under caution, but as you pointed out there were other instances there.  I don’t know – I really don’t know.  I just don’t.  I thought it was between those two things and I guess it’s not.”

Johnson also brought up an incident that occurred at Martinsville Speedway two weeks ago. In that

Kyle Busch on the track with Interstate Batteries on the car at Phoenix on Friday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

incident, Jamie McMurray wrecked Brian Vickers under caution.

“Speaking of a car limping to pit road,” Johnson said, “at Martinsville,  McMurray and Vickers had their thing and Jamie was down to like two miles an hour waiting for Brian to drive by on the outside and Brian took it and I’m like, ‘Don’t drive by, don’t drive by.’ Pow, he gets nailed.

“I’m like, ‘Man, why did you drive by him?’ That’s there. There are a lot of factors that played into Kyle’s (Busch) penalties and what took place. You know when you’re in that situation what’s possibly going to happen and then at that point you start worrying, but until then you just try to keep your eyes open so you don’t get caught up in something.”

Neither driver was parked after the Martinsville incident.

Earlier this week, during a teleconference with the media, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was ask a couple of questions about Busch vs. Hornaday and the penalty.

Earnhardt said he definitely thought the penalty fit the crime.

“I’m glad there’s some things that just aren’t going to be put up with,” Earnhardt said. “So it was good to see some good reaction from NASCAR.”

But Earnhardt also said that Busch’s driving style reminded him of another driver Earnhardt knew and knew better than anybody else.

“My father was quite aggressive, especially in the ’80s,” Earnhardt said. “I don’t know why, but when he went to the black car, which we thought he would be more aggressive, he just became intimidating and not quite as aggressive. He wasn’t running over people quite as much.

“I think that changes, too. As you grow up, get older, you sort of let go of certain things and pick up new things, change as a person.”

So, maybe there his hope for Busch in the future.

Many hope so.

“First of all, it would be a huge loss to the sport if Kyle Busch is not out there,” Gordon said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen. He is extremely talented and he’s entertaining. You have to give him not only the fact that he can win races, but he can do it in an entertaining way and I think that if this doesn’t teach him the ultimate lesson than nothing will.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 12 2011
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