November 5, 2011
NASCAR suspends Busch from Sunday's race
By Dean McNulty, QMI AGENCY
Kyle Busch has thumbed his nose at NASCAR, its seems, his whole career.
Early Saturday morning at Texas Motor Speedway NASCAR thumbed its nose back at the 26-year-old diver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Busch had, in a fit of temper, deliberately wrecked Ron Hornaday in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Friday night, ending Hornaday’s chances at a truck championship.
NASCAR boss Mike Helton reciprocated 12 hours later suspending Busch from Saturday’s Nationwide Series event and Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, the first such penalty since Robby Gordon was banned from a Cup race at Pocono for wrecking Marcos Ambrose in the Montreal Nationwide race back in 2007.
The penalty puts the death knell to Busch’s already long odds at claiming his first Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, with only three races left this season.
As one driver — hello Kenny Wallace — put Busch’s suspension so succinctly: “Karma is a bitch.”
Busch’s petulant act was so egregious that it went beyond even the elastic band limits of NASCAR’s infamous “Boys have at it” dictum when it comes to policing on track action in the sport.
Helton explained that Busch’s actions on the track at Texas had “crossed the line.”
“The responsibility that, over the past two or three seasons, we’ve given back to the drivers, came with a very clear understanding that there could be a line that got crossed,” he said. “As annoying as the comments I’ve made personally in the past — about ‘We’ll know it when we see it’ — might have been, we saw it last night.”
Helton made it as clear as NASCAR makes anything regarding rules clear, that the series and not the drivers are in charge of discipline in the sport.
“We take our responsibility very serious as to maintaining control of the event in all of the garages,” he said. “And at the end of the day, we’re the ones who have to make that decision and go on.”
On the fact that the penalty puts Busch out of contention for a Cup crown, Helton was unapologetic.
“We make a step like this speak to the uniqueness and the severity of the topic,” he said. “We understand the ramifications or the ripple effect in making this type of move.”
Busch, upon hearing the news in a face to face meeting with Helton and his Sprint Cup team owner Joe Gibbs at the NASCAR hauler in the garage area at TMS, snuck out a side door and exited the track without comment.
Gibbs named Denny Hamlin to drive in Busch’s stead in the NNS race and Michael McDowell will drive the No. 18 Toyota on Sunday.
For Gibbs its was a bit of — as Yogi Berra put it — deja vu all over again.
The three-time Super Bowl winning coach and three-time Sprint Cup champion team owner has dealt with some of the great miscreants of all time in first, Dexter Manley with the Washington Redskins and then Tony Stewart in his early NASCAR career.
But even by those standards Busch’s latest blow up could spell the end of his days at JGR, regardless of his immense racing talents.
Gibbs, in meeting with the media after the sanctions were imposed on his driver, did not go as far as to say Busch’s days on his team were numbered but neither did he offer any vote of confidence.
“I met with Kyle this morning,” Gibbs said. “I think it’s one of those personal conversations you have when a real tough situation like this comes up.
“We are still trying to go through (this) as best we can. We’ll be here the whole weekend ... trying to work out way through this, try to handle it the right way.”
Busch has an army of competitors who he has offended in his young career and this latest contretemps didn’t engender any support for him, in fact there wasn’t a single driver offering up any kind of sympathy for his predicament.