Sponsor spittin' mad at Busch

Kyle Busch watches his brother, Kurt, lap during a practice session at Delaware International...

Kyle Busch watches his brother, Kurt, lap during a practice session at Delaware International Speedway, July 13, 2011. (MIKE HENSEN/QMI Agency)

DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:42 PM ET

PHOENIX - It has been one week since Kyle Busch lost his mind at Texas Motor Speedway and slammed Ron Hornaday Jr., into the wall during a NASCAR Camping World Series truck race.

The result was an unprecedented ban for the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver from the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races the following days at TMS.

Then came a $50,000 penalty from NASCAR earlier this week.

But the real punishment for the 26-year-old Busch could be the worst of all — a termination of his multi-million dollar contract with JGR at the end of the season.

There was even widespread speculation on Thursday that Busch may not drive this week in the Sprint Cup Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday.

The genesis of this conjecture is that Mars, the giant American confectioner and sponsor of Busch’s No. 18 M&M Toyota, is so angry at what happened in Texas that it has, or will demand, that Busch be removed from their car.

Up until late Thursday, the Gibbs organization had not released any information on what lies ahead for the No.18 team, although Toyota Racing Development did release its regular weekly driver update Wednesday, which included quotes from Busch about racing on PIR’s newly paved and newly configured one-mile oval.

Busch did meet with his team last Sunday prior to the AAA Texas 500 and profoundly apologized for his actions in the truck race, but the damage may be too severe to mend the tattered relationship between the driver and the JGR group with an ‘I’m sorry’ no matter how heartfelt.

Adding fuel to the story of Busch’s imminent demise at JGR is the fact that Mars family members were in attendance at Texas and were said to be embarrassed and angry at what Busch did on the track.

On the plus side of the ledger for Busch is the fact that, in spite of his history of misbehaviour, he is certainly one of the most talented drivers stock car racing has ever produced.

His record speaks for itself: In just seven full seasons, Busch has won 23 Sprints Cup races, a record 51 Nationwide Series races and 30 Camping World trucks races.

No one, not Richard Petty, not Dale Earnhardt, not Jeff Gordon, not even five time champion Jimmie Johnson has delivered more wins over their first seven years in NASCAR’s top three loops.

And while in the immediate aftermath of his Texas meltdown no one in the garage was offering any sympathy for his plight, this week NASCAR’s most popular driver — Dale Earnhardt Jr. — did acknowledge that it was entirely possible Busch could learn from his mistakes and that he, too, had done things on the track he has regretted.

“Like everybody else, I was kind of shocked that it happened,” he said. “I know as a racecar driver you forget really how many people are watching and what’s going on. I’ve made similar mistakes, done things that I regret.

“I know Kyle probably wishes to move past it. I’m sure he’s going to learn a lesson from it one way or another. He’ll be a better driver and a better person for it in the end.”

Earnhardt even agreed that his own sainted father was once as aggressive on the race track as some see Busch. After all, Dale Earnhardt Sr., didn’t get the nickname “The Intimidator” for being a pacifist.

“My father was quite aggressive, especially in the 1980s,” Earnhardt said.

But he said that, as his father got older, he did mellow out and he hopes the same lesson will be learned by Busch.

“As you grow up, get older, you sort of let go of certain things and pick up new things, change as a person,” he said.

FINISH LINES

By the time you read this, Canada’s Robert Wickens will have had his first Formula One Friday practice under his belt in the Marussia Virgin Racing Cosworth at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Wickens won the right to make his F1 debut after capturing the Formula Renault 3.5 Series this past season. ... F1’s Mercedes GP has signed German Nico Rosberg to a multi-year contract extension to include the 2013 season. Since joining Mercedes in 2010 season, Rosberg has delivered three podiums and scored 217 world championship points.


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