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Pedley: Who Says NASCAR Has No Villains?

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 9 2009
Kyle Busch reacts to questions at Thursday press conference at Chicagoland Speedway (RacinToday.com photo by Mark Henderson/Really Really Big Industries)

Kyle Busch reacts to questions at Thursday press conference at Chicagoland Speedway (RacinToday.com photo by Mark Henderson/Really Really Big Industries)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Joliet, Ill. – Ask people in racing about what it is that is wrong with NASCAR these days and you get a laundry list so long that it would scare the bejeezus out of both Proctor and Gamble. But there is a top to that list and that spot often belongs to villainy: more precisely, the lack of it in Sprint Cup.

Those who feel that what is missing from NASCAR is a good person to hate, may feel differently the longer that Kyle Busch prolongs his career.

Busch spent about 20 minutes of his Thursday afternoon solidifying his position as Sprint Cup’s baddest boy.

His words and tone were classically classless. He stuck his chin out at the series points leader and he drew major media attention to the chip on his shoulder. All in an appealing, love-to-hate-the-guy kind of way.

The occasion was a press conference in the infield media center at Chicagoland Speedway, site of Saturday night’s LifeLock 400 Sprint Cup race.

Busch’s session was one of 14 scheduled on the day but it was by far the most anticipated as it would give the media its first chance to ask Busch about the controversial finish to last Saturday’s race in Daytona.

A couple of days after Tony Stewart took the high road on the incident – which featured he and Busch tangling on the final lap as they both went for the victory – Busch dove low.

He put full blame for the incident on Stewart.

Busch said that Stewart “dumped” him and should have had the victory taken away from Stewart.

“I think NASCAR can take a step in looking at it and if the second-place driver dumps, quote unquote, the leader, then black flag his ass,” Busch said. “He doesn’t get the win. If he’s on him from behind and moves him out of the way and there’s no wreck,, then fine, he can win the race. But if you’re up alongside a guy and you dump him, then I say black flag him and give the win to the third-place guy.”

To clarify; he considered what Stewart did to him a dump?

“It would be considered a dump,” Busch said.

Busch appears to possess the minority opinion on that count.

Virtually all other drivers asked about it Thursday said not only did Stewart not “dump” Stewart, but that Busch attempted to dump Stewart.

“That was a long way from being a dump (on Stewart’s part) in my mind,” Kasey Kahne, who had a great view of the incident as Busch’s car wound up on top of his. “It was a racing incident. I thought it was pretty exciting.”

Also waving off Busch’s contention was four-time series champions Jeff Gordon, among others.

Busch was asked if he would do anything differently were he to find himself in a similar situation.

Guess what he said?

“Same way,” Busch said in a tone that indicated he was not really approving of the question. “I don’t have it back, it’s over with, it’s done with, it’s over. I did everything I could to try to win the race and I didn’t.”

Then there was Stewart. No way he was ready to steer free of the high road.

He had said on Wednesday that he had called Busch to check on him and said that afterward, he felt that he and Busch were “on the same page” about the incident.

Apparently that page is open to interpretation.

But Stewart Thursday reiterated his contention that he has no problem with Busch. The guy who at one time was quite the bad boy himself, would not retreat on that contention even when told what Busch had said an hour or so before.

“We spoke for 30 minutes or so on the phone and it was very good,” Stewart said. “That is the conversation I am going off of.”

Stewart even chose to brush off criticism from Busch about the method by which Stewart has been able to win races and lead the point standings in his first year as an owner/driver.

Busch, basically, gave credit for Stewart Haas Racing’s success to Hendrick Motorsports, the team which provides Stewart with technical assistance and inventory.

“I think there is another Hendrick team up there that is really, really strong, and I am referring to the Stewart gang,” Busch said. “They’re obviously just another satellite Hendrick team, which has done their homework and now they’re all Hendrick people so that’s six teams that they have resources with.”

NASCAR needs a villain you say? You blind?

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 9 2009
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