Saturday, November 5, 2011
How Can NASCAR Get Through to Kyle Busch?
By Jerry Bonkowski
Some guys just don't get it. They never learn.
Even when they get penalized, sooner or later you know it's inevitable: they're going to go out and do another stupid thing – just the latest in what continues to become an even longer list of dumb, unthinking, unconscionable and uncaring moves.
Just when we had hope that Kyle Busch had started maturing into a true champion, he once again shows that not only is he a poor loser, he's also someone who is irresponsible, condescending and nothing short of a brat – again and again and again.
It's really sad, because so many people had such high hopes that the younger Busch brother was turning the corner over the last couple of years, that he finally got rid of his childish ways and was becoming a true adult, especially when he got married at the end of last year. Even non-KyBusch fans started gravitating towards and cheering for him.
But in the span of just six months this year, starting in early May, Busch has been a powder keg of trouble, the kind of trouble that doesn't find him but more the type that he seems to have unique ways of finding all by himself.
On May 7 at Darlington, Busch got into a post-race altercation on pit road with Kevin Harvick, ultimately pushing Harvick's driver-less vehicle into the pit road wall in an attempt to get away from Harvick before he was able to throw a punch in Busch's direction. Afterward, Busch blames Harvick for instigating things, even though Kyle was the one who provoked the pit road incident by intentionally hitting Harvick's car in the rear as they approached the pits.
Then, less than three weeks later, on May 25, Busch was stopped by a sheriff's deputy running radar for traveling 128 mph in a 45-mph zone on a two-lane country road.
Talk about irresponsibility, what if Busch and his wife had crashed into the car of an innocent person or family and caused death? Instead, Kyle issued a statement that essentially said he got carried away for driving a $400,000 luxury sports car.
If you or I were to do the same thing, we'd be in prison for a long, long time. Instead, Busch wound up getting supervision, an action that many decried as a miscarriage of justice simply because his last name is Busch and because he drives race cars for a living.
Wait, there's more.
On June 5, Richard Childress took a poke at Busch for an incident in a Truck Series race at Kansas. Absent any photos or video, reports of what happened still vary: some say Childress threw a punch or two and missed, while others say he put "Shrub" in a headlock and did more than just give him a noogie.
Kyle may have learned a lesson for a few months, but you just kind of knew that sooner or later, another incident would rear its ugly head.
Which brings us to Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway when Busch intentionally drove Ron Hornaday head-on into the wall. What started the whole thing? Hornaday's truck got loose, banged into Busch's truck, both trucks scraped the outside wall and suffered minor damage at best.
But instead of going on, Busch took it upon himself to get behind Hornaday's truck on the resulting caution, pushed him like a steamroller at full speed – with Hornaday helpless to do much but to hang on for what was sure to be a wild ride and an even wilder outcome – into the wall at a speed estimated around 130 mph.
Had that happened on a public freeway, Busch would be under arrest for felony assault with a deadly weapon (his truck). If convicted, he'd likely be facing a good stretch in prison – and would be the luckiest man on earth if his victim didn't die as a result of his road rage idiocy.
Hornaday did absolutely nothing wrong, nor did he do anything to warrant Busch's ludicrous need for alleged payback. Hornaday simply moved up the racetrack to avoid a slower truck in front of him, lost grip and slid into Busch.
It was nothing but a racing incident. There was no premeditation, no intention, nothing but Hornaday getting loose and Busch's truck being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If that were to happen 99.9 percent of the time to other drivers, it would be no harm, no foul. But by his reaction, Busch obviously felt slighted and chose to ramrod Hornaday into the wall and likely out of contention for the Truck Series championship.
And then Busch smugly said in a post-incident TV interview that he was tired of being wrecked for the last four weeks and had enough, that he was "sorry" about wrecking Hornaday and putting a serious dent (no pun intended) in his championship hopes, but that he essentially did what he felt he had to do.
Again, another stupid move by a driver who could be brilliant – perhaps even one of NASCAR's greatest drivers ever – but ultimately winds up showing how much of a punk he can be and still is.
I don't know, maybe it stems back to Busch's days as a kid in his Las Vegas neighborhood or in school. Was he beaten up far too many times? Did bullies intimidate him? Was he picked on so much that once he was able to utilize his talent in other ways, that he became the bully rather than the bullied on a racetrack?
NASCAR did the right thing by parking Busch immediately, and then subsequently suspending him for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at TMS. Maybe Busch didn't care if there was a NASCAR punishment from Friday's incident because he was already out of contention to win the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship with just three races to go.
Just before I wrote this column, I received a call from a friend within the sport. He said don't be surprised if Busch faces some additional heavy-duty punishment this coming week. Rumors are already flying that the 26-year-old Busch may be fined as much as $100,000 for his willful and wanton act that without question is in clear violation of NASCAR's "actions detrimental to the sport of stock car racing."
In fact, given the egregiousness and intentional pushing of Hornaday and his truck into the wall, my friend said don't be surprised if Busch is parked for the remainder of the NASCAR season, period.
There's no question that Kyle Busch and his persona remain a mystery. Just when we think he's becoming a good guy, a mature adult who understands that he makes mistakes just like everyone else, he proceeds to prove everyone wrong by making yet another stupid move – or blaming everyone else, as he is often wont to do.
In the whole big scheme of things, what did Kyle have to gain by pushing Hornaday into the wall other than childish retribution? Busch himself said Hornaday should not have been racing so hard when the event occurred early in the race, just 15 laps in from the green flag drop.
And Busch has the right to say that for what reason? Was he running for the championship? Nope, he isn't allowed to because of new rules this season that drivers had to pick a series championship to vie for. Busch chose Sprint Cup, while Hornaday picked the Camping World Truck Series.
Was Busch in the final laps and going for the win? Nope. Like I said, the race was only 15 laps old.
So what was Busch running for so early in the race? Simply, for position. That's all. And because he was trying to gain a spot on Hornaday, Kyle took offense and umbrage when Hornaday lost control of his truck and forced Busch up into the wall. When a race vehicle, be it a car or truck, gets loose, that's what inevitably happens – and no one should know that better than Busch, given the dozens of times his car or truck has gotten loose during his NASCAR career.
Following the head-on incident, Busch gave his so-called apology that wound up being a non-apology for all intents and purposes. But, and irregardless about his truck championship hopes, what would have happened if Hornaday had been injured by Busch's actions? What would have happened if some fans in the stands were struck by some of the resulting debris and injured?
NASCAR did the right thing in parking Busch for the remainder of the Trucks race, as well as the Cup race. But it didn't go far enough – and maybe further punishment will come Tuesday.
Not only does KyBusch need anger management classes, he needs to be parked until next season. Doing so would hopefully give him time to reflect upon the wrongness of his ways.
What's more, Busch not driving will have payback of its own: sponsors are paying for him to be behind the wheel, not Michael McDowell, who will sub for him Sunday at Texas. And if NASCAR holds out Busch for the remaining Cup, Nationwide and Truck races of 2011, even pious, religious team owner Joe Gibbs will get more than a little hot under the collar if those same sponsors ask for refunds because they're not getting what they're paying for, namely Kyle.
Then again, if I was a sponsor of Kyle's and saw what he did to Hornaday on Friday, the last thing I'd want to be is associated with a poor loser and poor sport like him.
Take it a step further: what if we're at Homestead Miami Speedway in two weeks for the season finale and Kyle gets slighted – intentionally or not – by Carl Edwards or Tony Stewart, and decides to put them into the wall for payback, ultimately costing them the championship.
Would anyone blame NASCAR for turning a blind eye to what would happen after the race – and let the real "boys have at it" take place? In other words, NASCAR may look away if another driver were to do to Kyle what Jimmy Spencer did to older brother Kurt in 2002, a wake-up call that Kurt readily has admitted many times in the past was just the thing he needed to turn his attitude around.
If something similar were to happen to Kyle, maybe that's the only thing that would finally make him understand and learn from. Because it's pretty clear that probations, suspensions and fines just haven't gotten his attention enough to change his ways.
And if that were to happen, my money is on the other guy to win with a one-punch knockout.
I'm just waiting for the first dust-up between Kyle and Danica Patrick. Maybe only then, after she kicks his butt for all to see, will Kyle finally learn.
By Jerry Bonkowski at Saturday, November 05, 2011