Busch on new track
By Dean McNulty, QMI AGENCY
NASCAR officials issue questionable cautions
TORONTO - Maybe it was the scare that Kyle Busch got at the end of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season after he body slammed Ron Hornaday into the wall at Texas Motor Speedway in the Camping World Truck Series.
That was the one that started a chain reaction of events that led to Busch being suspended by NASCAR and by his Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup team for one race.
It also nearly caused his No. 18 Toyota M&M sponsor to pull out of its $25-million US deal with JGR.
In any event, in the continuing effort to re-invent himself Busch appears to be a contrite and non-confrontational this NASCAR season and nowhere was it more evident than after his win in the Capital City/Virginia is for Lovers 400 Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway this past weekend.
He was positively gracious, especially toward his former teammate and sometimes sparring partner, Tony Stewart.
Stewart, if you recall, had the race all but won before a late yellow flag allowed Busch to catch and then pass the No. 14 Chevrolet.
“I was losing half a tenth to a tenth on every lap to what Tony was doing up there,” Busch said. “He was just so fast.”
The old Kyle Busch surely would have gone for the jugular, that is get as close as he could and then punt Stewart out of the way.
But the kinder, gentler Busch bided his time at Richmond.
“I kept trying and staying with him there early in that run to get the pressure on him and get him to use up his tires a little bit, but once I about couldn’t see him anymore, I figured, OK, I’m going to save what I’ve got here and just try to make it to the end.
“There was no catching Stewart without that caution.”
We have seen Busch before trying to change his bad-boy image, but there is a feeling in the NASCAR garage that this time it could be for real.
VICKERS DOES LE MANS
Just over a year ago there was serious doubts about whether NASCAR Sprint Cup racer Brian Vickers would ever race again.
Vickers suffered from a series of blood clots that not only ended his 2010 Cup season, it very nearly ended his life.
After making a miraculous recovery, Vickers found out that his Red Bull Racing team was going to be disbanded after the 2011 season.
He headed into the 2012 without a ride and few prospects. But then he hooked up with Michael Waltrip Racing in the No. 55 Toyota in deal that would see him race half a dozen Cup events.
In his first outing Vickers got a Top 5 finish and MWR extended his Cup contract to eight races.
On Tuesday Vickers signed on to race at the Le Mans 24 Hours sports car race in a Ferrari 458 Italia for AF Waltrip Racing.
The 28-year-old Vickers will also contest this weekend’s Six Hours of Spa, round two of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Waltrip was to race those events but a scheduling conflict opened up the seat for Vickers.
MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman, who will drive with Vickers and Rui Aguas at Spa and Le Mans, said he is happy to have Vickers on board for the world’s most famous endurance race..
“Brian was kind of a member of the family, so he’ll be doing those races instead, but we expect Michael to be back in the car for Silverstone.”
NASCAR rules bosses came down hard on six Nationwide Series crew chiefs Tuesday for using illegal front ends at Richmond International Raceway this past weekend. Fined $10,000 and placed on probation until the end of the season are: Luke Lambert (No. 2 team), Danny Stockman (No. 3 team), Trent Owens (No. 30 team), Jimmy Elledge (No. 31 team), Ernie Cope (No. 33 team), and Mike Shiplett (No. 38 team). Additionally, the teams’ respective car chiefs – Phil Gould (No. 2), Robert Strmiska (No. 3), Shannon Rursch (No. 30), Ronald Hornaday III (No. 31), Paul Balmer (No. 33), and Christopher Meyers (No. 38) – have likewise been placed on NASCAR probation.