We saw this act too many times in the past, Kyle Busch on a tirade. We’ve been told in the past that he’s a very passionate driver who finds race day adversity, such as finishing second, unacceptable. He attracts attention like a moth drawn to a flame. There are even some members of the NASCAR media who regard him as job security because he’s always good for a story line.
But what we witnessed from this driver, during the NASCAR weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway, was an act that was taken too far. When Kyle Busch decided to disrespect a NASCAR official with an obscene gesture, during last Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, he seriously crossed a line. He now knows that and he seems to be humbled by the aftermath of the incident.
Busch’s Texas weekend actually began on a super positive note. The Texas Motor Speedway played host to all three of NASCAR’s national touring series and Busch was entered in all three races. That’s something else about him we’ve seen many times before and he’s very good at busy racing schedules.
On Friday night Busch, in his self owned Toyota Truck, won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. It marked his seventh series win of the season and his 23d series career win. The latest win in the truck series also paid some handsome dividends. This was especially true of the owner’s points championship. Kyle Busch Motorsports now holds a 72 point lead in those standings and, with only two races left in the season, that’s going to be difficult for the competition to overcome. It beginning to look like Busch’s truck team, in its rookie season, is going to take this coveted title.
Busch’s Friday night win also paid dividends for Toyota as well. It allowed the automaker to win the series’ manufacturer’s championship for the fifth consecutive year in a row.
On Saturday Busch climbed in his familiar Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to take the green flag for the NASCAR Nationwide Series event. Busch was going after another set of Nationwide Series numbers in this race. With five previous wins at Texas, he was looking to become only the first driver in NASCAR history to win six consecutive races at the same track. Once again he was a major player in the race and led a race high 107 of the 205 laps.
Unfortunately, he didn’t lead the lap that mattered the most: the final one. That honor went to race winner Carl Edwards. A late in the race final caution flag set up another one of the series’ classic green-white-checker finishes. Edwards and Busch lined up next to each other for the double file restart. Edwards pulled off a beauty of a restart and easily led the final two laps for the win.
After the race an incensed Busch swore that Edwards jumped the restart and hit the gas pedal prior to passing the double red lines painted on the outside retaining wall. These lines are used as markers for the official starting point. NASCAR officials double checked the video and declared that Edwards had done nothing wrong.
The fact of the matter was Busch was completely got off guard by Edwards’ outstanding restart effort and apparently had trouble with the fact that he lost the race and the opportunity to set another new series’ record.
After the race an angry Busch said “he jumped the restart by about three lengths before the double red marks. Does it freakin’ matter? The race is over. The guy’s in victory lane. It doesn’t matter.” Following the conclusion of a race NASCAR policy calls for the top three finishers to report to the track media center for a press conference. Busch only spent a few scant moments in the media center before he stormed out but not before he left a few well chosen four letter words in his wake. There was also a report that said Busch used foul language during a post race radio interview. Fortunately the radio network was able to do some quick editing to protect the sanctity of their airwaves.
We have of course seen these tirades from this driver many times before. But what we didn’t know Saturday night was the ultimate Busch melt down was yet to come. What happened on Sunday left even Busch’s harshest critics speechless?
When the green flag fell on Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Busch was considered a pre race favorite. But his Sunday in Texas unraveled on lap 160 when his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota went spinning through turns one and two. He came in for tires and quickly worked his way down pit road. Busch was worried about crossing the pit road exit line before the pace car did in order to avoid going a lap down. He got to the line first but was caught for speeding down pit road in the process. His action to beat the pace car was deemed flagrant and NASCAR ordered him to return to pit road for a one lap penalty.
The Kyle Busch meltdown was now locked and loaded. He pulled into his pit stall to serve the penalty amid a volley of four letter words. A NASCAR official was standing directly in front of his car with his hand held up to halt the driver until the penalty was complete. That’s when Busch decided to let his anger cross a line that should have been left alone. He displayed his middle finger to the official. We all saw it because the ESPN Network had a camera inside of Busch’s car and the moment was recorded for posterity. NASCAR also saw the offensive gesture and brought Busch back to pit road for an additional two lap penalty. A car capable of winning the race was now three laps down and wound up finishing 32nd.
Busch later said that he wasn’t aware that the in car camera system was on. It really didn’t matter because he held that middle finger against his windshield for several seconds. He wanted to make sure that the pit road official got a good look at his displeasure.
After the race Busch was still in a surly mood and said “you get spun out and wrecked like that and you’re not supposed to lose your cool. I mean HELLO!
NASCAR officials were understandably angry at Busch. After the race Kerry Tharpe, NASCAR Director of Communication and Competition, called the incident both “unacceptable and inappropriate at any level of sports.” He also indicated that the punishment phase may not be over and NASCAR may be taking a hard look at this incident in the days to come.
Tharpe strongly objected to the offensive action taken by Busch against one of their officials and said “we take that very seriously and I think this is one we’re going to take a hard look at. It’s in the rule book, It’s on the pit road rulebook card as well. Anytime you make an obscene or inappropriate gesture toward any one of our officials, you’re subject to a time or lap penalty and we got him with the two laps. But again, the people who officiate our sport are hard working men and women and they deserve to be treated with respect.”
By now a much calmer, and very humble, Kyle Busch admitted that the frustration of the spin out got the best of him and said “I’m sorry that I lost my cool to everybody on this team, to everybody at NASCAR and all my guys that supports me. It’s just so frustrating the way that have such a fast race car, then you get spun out and you don’t expect to lose your cool, I guess. I apologize to all of my guys for letting them down and for getting us so far behind that we could never make it up.”
Next we witnessed another sight that we’ve seen many times before. That would be J D Gibbs, President of Joe Gibbs Racing, taking on the role of company spin doctor. Gibbs reminded us that Busch is an extremely passionate driver who gets frustrated easily when things do not go well on race day.
“I think that’s something he’s going to have to continue to work on and I think that he acknowledges that and admits that. But right when it happens, it’s hard for him to control that. I think that’s just an area in general and in life he’s going to have to address. We’ve just got to make sure it happens sooner rather than later”, Gibbs said.