MONDAY NIGHT UPDATE: NASCAR fined Kyle Busch $50,000 and put him on probation until Dec. 31 for actions detrimental to stock car racing as a result of the incident with Ron Hornaday at Texas Motor Speedway last Friday night.
Earlier . . .
You have to wonder which of his sponsors refused permission for Joe Gibbs to fire Kyle Busch, because at least one of them did or else Busch wouldn’t have been allowed to watch Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race from the comfort of the team’s pit box at Texas Motor Speedway.
What made it worse is that Busch was allowed to sit down to watch the race; owner Gibbs had to stand behind him the whole time.
(Or else Busch hopped up there first and sat down and put on the headphones, just like anyone who feels entitled would do. And Gibbs, ever the gentleman he is, didn’t want to create a scene by tapping him on the shoulder and saying something like, "Hey, Junior – you’re in my seat.")
Seeing Busch sitting there – calm, cool and seemingly unware that he escaped being on Death Row for doing something Friday night that very well could have resulted in the death of another racing driver – was disappointing, to say the least.
The question all weekend – at least ever since Busch lined up a Camping World Series truck being driven by Ron Hornaday on Friday night and deliberately sent it slamming into the outside wall at that same Texas Speedway – had been whether Gibbs would fire Busch.
As NASCAR had earlier handed down the stiffest penalty it had ever levied against a driver, and said so when it suspended Busch from competition for the rest of the weekend’s Nationwide and Sprint Cup races, it’s unlikely there will be anything further – although it remains an option.
But when Gibbs said after the suspension was announced that he would be "talking to sponsors," you got the feeling he was asking permission to set Busch down, either for the rest of the season or even longer.
The former coach of the Washington Redskins, Gibbs is a person who has the patience of Job. He previously put up with Tony Stewart’s temper tantrums when "Smoke" drove for him (he made him take anger management counselling) but all Tony ever really did was be rude to reporters.
Kyle Busch, however, has always been a handful. He once threatened to kill Denny Hamlin on national television (it was a radio transmission but there was no doubting his fury), he refused to speak to the media (there was one famous race a year ago when he ran away from reporters by ducking in and out of transporters in the paddock and then made his final escape by running across the track and out a gate) and generally made a royal pain of himself.
That, of course, was the old Kyle Busch. The new Kyle Busch arrived on the scene at the beginning of this year and butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. He was kind, friendly, funny, cooperative and just about completely opposite from the jerk we used to know.
I put it down to his marriage; others said he’d obviously spent time with the Gibbs-contracted anger counsellors. Whichever, he was a different guy. Even when Richard Childress put him in a headlock and punched him, Busch kept his cool (and that must have been a true test).
Everything was wonderful until Friday night, early in the truck race, when Busch and Hornaday were running side-by-side and came across a slower truck. Hornaday had to move up the track to avoid a collison and sideswiped Busch in the process.
It was the sort of thing you see dozens of times over the course of a season in any kind of racing. It was no big deal.
But if you ever want to see road rage in action, take a look at the video and see what happened next.
Now, trying to explain intent is a very difficult thing to do because nobody really knows what’s in another person’s mind.
Did Busch simply try to send a message to Hornaday, along the lines of "don’t do that again?" Or did he try to do something more sinister?
I don’t know.
Did Todd Bertuzzi mean to break Steve Moore’s neck when he sucker-punched him in that hockey game? Did that guy who ran the yellow light in Mississauga the other day mean to kill two people? Did the guy who got into a bar fight in Toldedo mean to kill that other guy?
I don’t know.
But it doesn’t matter. When something bad happens, there have to be consequences – even when somebody "didn’t mean to do it (as Busch seems to imply in his letter of apology to the world)."
Kyle Busch got off easy because Ron Hornaday walked away from that accident. But what if he hadn’t?
NASCAR sent its message and it’s highly unlikely it will do anything further. Joe Gibbs might have sent a message but the sight of Kyle Busch sitting in that pit box Sunday, with his boss standing behind him, was symbolic in more ways than one.
It was, to be blunt, an opportunity missed.
– Tony Stewart won his second Cup race in a row at Texas (and fourth in eight Chase races) when he held off Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne to win the Sprint Cup race there Sunday. Edwards now leads the points race by three over Stewart. Although many of the other drivers are still mathematically in the Chase, the championship is now down to those two. Only two races remain – Phoenix next Sunday and then Homestead-Miami. It will go right down to the wire. Full story here.
– Trevor Bayne won the Nationwide Series race on Saturday and became the fourth Nationwide driver to win a race in the series, the 29 other victories all going to Sprint Cup regulars who dropped down. Denny Hamlin (driving Kyle Busch’s car) finished second and Carl Edwards was third. Danica Patrick qualified 11th and finished 11th. Full story here
– Donny Schatz won the final race of the World of Outlaws sprint car season on the Dirt Track at Charlotte. Steve Kinser finished second and Craig Dollansky was third. Schatz won the A-Main on Friday night, too. And Tim McReadie of Watertown, N.Y. (yeah, he’s Barefoot Bob’s kid) won both Super DIRT Series races at Charlotte on the weekend.
– Luca di Montezemolo unleashed a barrage at the FIA over the weekend, saying in effect that if Formula One wanted Ferrari to continue in the category, it had better ease off on testing rules and third cars, in general, and technical regulations in particular. "We are here as constructors, not sponsors," he told media covering Ferrari’s World Finals event at Mugello, suggesting that F1 had to be cutting edge again while still keeping an eye on costs. He suggested F1 is the only sport in the world that doesn’t allow practicing, which is wrong, and said fans would rather see three competitive cars from one marque in a race rather than some underfunded, uncompetitive entry from another that’s being passed every three or four laps.
– In other F1 news, the FIA has officially confirmed that Virgin, Renault and Team Lotus will all have new names for 2012. Renault becomes Lotus. Lotus becomes Caterham. And Virgin becomes Marussia. Clear as mud, right? Who wants to bet that at least two of those teams have new names again within the next two years?
– Casey Stoner beat Ben Spies by 0.015 seconds in the MotoGP event at Valencia in Spain. Full story here.
BACK TO KYLE BUSCH:
Here's an interesting take on the weekend's going-on in NASCAR. The author, Carol Einarsson, dumps all over Michael Waltrip for firing David Reutimann and suggests that if Joe Gibbs wants to get rid of a problem, there's a driver available . . . the good read is here.
Ron Hornaday (and you can't blame him) had some interesting things to say about Kyle Busch and Friday night's little incident:
"If NASCAR doesn't (park Busch), I'm hanging around, and I'm going to buy Tommy Baldwin's ride and that guy will never finish another race. . . We'll see what NASCAR does. If they don't handle it right, I'll be over at his house Monday morning.''