Kyle Busch finally pushed NASCAR past its breaking point, and it did to Kyle what he did to the trophy Gibson guitar a few years ago at Nashville Superspeedway: It smashed him.
After Busch deliberately wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr. in a Texas truck race Nov. 4, NASCAR suspended the young hot-head from the next day’s Nationwide race and the following Sprint Cup Series main event.
It wasn’t the first time NASCAR has imposed such a carry-over penalty – parking a driver from Cup competition because of actions in a lower-division race. Robby Gordon and Kevin Harvick got the same treatment in years past. But for Busch, the penalty was especially crushing because he was one of 12 drivers eligible for the NASCAR championship.
Realistically, Busch wasn’t in the running when he got set down – he was buried in seventh place with three to go. But, what if he had been in first place and seen his title hopes dashed due to his boorish behavior?
That’s the message NASCAR sent. Enough is enough, and even Busch fans had to admit it was justice served.
Busch had been given too long a leash for too long. NASCAR should have tanned his fanny after his Superspeedway antics. Dashing to pieces the priceless hand-painted trophy guitar in victory lane was shameful, wasteful, juvenile and disrespectful.
But NASCAR allowed him to slide, and like any spoiled brat who is allowed to get away with bad behavior, NASCAR’s inaction seemed to encourage him.
I thought that maybe Richard Childress had smacked some sense into him – literally and figuratively – after Busch wrecked one of Childress’ trucks prior to the Texas incident.
Richard did what NASCAR and Kyle’s mom and dad should have done long ago when he put Busch over his knee.
Along with NASCAR, I also blame team owner Joe Gibbs for letting Busch run wild. Joe’s the boss. It was his responsibility to put a stop to Busch’s blowups. Gibbs could have stopped it if he’d wanted to. But, Joe has a reputation for running a loose ship when it comes to discipline, as evidenced by how he permitted Tony Stewart to repeatedly act up.
NASCAR refused to deal seriously with Stewart. It put him on probation, then when he became involved in another fracas, NASCAR simply extended the probation.
NASCAR acted like a parent on a plane with a screaming kid. It kept saying “shhhhhh,” but it didn’t do anything to stop the caterwauling.
Until the Texas incident, that is.
After being parked, Busch issued a lengthy written apology, which sounded suspiciously like it had been authored by one of his PR people. But whether the apology was sincere or not, there’s no doubt that Kyle got the message.
He’s arguably the best racer in NASCAR, certainly the most exciting. Some of his defenders say he’s akin to tough old-timers, like Dale Earnhardt, who didn’t hesitate to skin a few knuckles if they felt the occasion called.
But Busch’s behavior is different. Wrecking a driver in a third-division truck race in which Busch competes just for fun was over the edge. If he kept it up, somebody was going to get hurt – and I don’t mean just another punch in the nose for Kyle.
Hard racing is what NASCAR is all about, and frankly, it could use more of it. But like a dirty hit in football, there are limits and boundaries. Racing is too dangerous to play the kind of games Busch had been playing.
Maybe cooling his heels for awhile, allowed him to cool his head as well. MP
Larry Woody can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.