Busch An Intense Driver, Pleasant Dinner Guest
By Bill Fleischman | Senior Correspondent
Prior to a recent dinner with Kyle Busch and other mid-Atlantic-area auto racing writers, I wondered what kind of mood Busch would be in. After a few probing questions, would he blurt “Bleep you guys, I’m outta here”?
I’m happy to report that the evening with Busch was very pleasant. He didn’t dodge any questions. A few minutes into the interview session in “Michele’s” restaurant in the Dover Downs Hotel, after a day of tire testing at the adjacent speedway, I asked Busch if he’s thought about not making the Chase. At the time, following a 16th-place finish at Pocono, he was 101 points out of 12th place, the final qualifying spot for the Chase.
“I’m hoping we make it,” he said. “We’re working our hardest to be in the Chase. If we turn things around and start running better, we’ll be in the Chase.
“If we don’t (though), we’ll be running the rest of the year for nothing. If will be a building block to near year. That’s about it.”
A 23rd-place finish at Michigan has damaged Busch chances to be a Chaser. He is 15th in the standings, 70 points out of 12th place with three races remaining before the Chase field is settled. Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer, the two racers Busch must pass just to get to 12th place, are running strong.
The day before the Cup race at Michigan, Busch had issues with Brian Vickers. The two were dueling for the lead in the Nationwide series race when Brad Keselowski passed them and won the race in his home state.
Busch felt that Vickers should have given him more room to race.
“It’s so frustrating that you can’t have a guy race you clean,” Busch said. “He was on our right-rear quarter panel all the way down the front straightaway and gave the win to the 88 car (Keselowski). Brian Vickers was trying to slow both of us down. Just stupid.”
Predictably, Busch’s comments did not go over big with Vickers.
“I am so sorry: I forgot it was the Kyle Busch show,” Vickers said sarcastically. “I thought we were racing for a win. I thought it was my job to hold him off. He came over to the car after we came in and knocked the fender in, and then started crying like a little baby.”
Vickers said he offered to discuss the issue “like men” after he climbed out of his car. “(But) when I got out, he ran off,” Vickers said.
Vickers, who won the Cup race the next day, is the latest racing rival that Busch has had problems with. Busch said at Dover that he sets the bar high for himself.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best,” he said. “I want to be the guy that everybody says `we’ve got to beat Kyle Busch.’ ‘’
Then, reaching for a place card with his name on it, Busch said, “I’m Kyle Busch. I’m supposed to win races.”
Busch, 24, can’t seem to accept that there are other outstanding drivers on the tracks and they’ll win their share of races.
Since he is racing for points, Busch has to alter his aggressive racing style. Clearly, he is not comfortable with being more patient on the race track.
“If it comes down to me running second on the last lap and making a banzai move into Turn 1 and taking a chance of wrecking myself, I can’t do it,” he said. “If I was in the situation I was last year, leading the points (and) already locked to be the top seed (in the Chase), I’d wreck the leader. This year, I’ve got to ride it out and finish second.”
Busch’s full-time commitment to the Nationwide series has brought him criticism. Observers believe racing in the Nationwide series, where he is the points leader, detracts from his Sprint Cup effort. Even his older brother Kurt has suggested that Busch focus more on Cup. Busch said he is thinking about cutting back his Nationwide schedule next year.
To me, Busch has an odd fixation with winning a Nationwide title. Maybe you have to be a racer with Busch’s talent and mentality to understand it.
Anyway, if he fails to make the Chase, he’ll be compelling to watch during the Chase racers. With nothing to lose, look for him to make many banzai moves,
The second Chase race is at Dover on Sept. 27.
– Bill Fleischman is the auto racing beat writer for the Philadelphia Daily News and a frequent contributor to RacinToday.com3 Comments