At the beginning of the season, all the talk was about the new Kyle Busch, the driver who was more mature, calculated on the track, and more accessible off the track even after a bad run.
[media-credit id=62 align=”alignright” width=”229″][/media-credit]This was in stark contrast to the driver who previously would take any chance on the track to win, no matter who got in the way, and sometimes sulked, making a quick exit if things did not go his way.
Currently, however, Kyle Busch is neither old nor new. The driver of the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing is just plain distracted.
The major distractions for Busch started on May 7th when he and Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, got into it at the Darlington Showtime Southern 500.
After issues on the track, Harvick and Busch headed for trouble on pit road, with Harvick reaching into Busch’s car for some action and Busch driving away, pushing Harvick’s car into the pit road retaining wall.
“I knew that wasn’t going to be a good situation when I saw him getting out of his car,” Busch said. “My choices were limited.”
“I was either going to get punched in the face or just drive through his car,” Busch continued. “I made a judgment call there and it wasn’t one of the best choices that I had.”
As a result of their altercation, NASCAR penalized both drivers for actions detrimental to stock car racing. They were both fined $25,000 each and put on probation for four races.
But the distractions for Kyle Busch continued shortly thereafter, with the 26 year old driver being pulled over for speeding, going 128 mph in a 4 mph zone in Iredell County, North Carolina. Busch was ticketed for reckless driving and speeding on May 24th.
“I’m certainly sorry that it happened,” Busch said. “It was a lack of judgment and all I can do is apologize to the public, my friends, my fans, my sponsors and everybody and look at this experience as a learning experience and move forward.”
“It’s certainly challenging sometimes, with things you have to think about, and, of course, actions that you may cause yourself,” Busch continued. “Thankfully, I’ve got some good people around me that can help me through these experiences.”
Busch’s next distraction, however, was right around the corner when he learned that not all the people surrounding him, particularly in the NASCAR garage, were in his corner.
After the Camping World Truck Series race in Kansas on June 4th, Kyle Busch tapped into another driver Joey Coulter, who just happened to be fielded out of the Richard Childress Racing stables.
Apparently that was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and the fight was on, with Childress reportedly placing Busch in a headlock in the garage area and striking him several times.
“I don’t know that I did anything out of the ordinary that would provoke something of Mr. Childress,” Busch said after the incident. “I’m going to leave it up to NASCAR and let them decide what they feel is best.”
In this case, NASCAR acted quickly, attempting to limit the distraction for Busch and finding him in no violation of his probation. Childress, however, was fined $150,000 and placed on probation for the rest of the season.
Most recently, Busch’s distractions have continued, now with two major issues related to his car. The No. 18 M&Ms Toyota failed post-race inspection at Pocono on June 12th, with his third-place finishing car deemed too low.
NASCAR again took swift action, docked the driver six points and Busch’s crew chief Dave Rogers being fined for $25,000.
“Yea, we’ve talked a little bit this week and they found out what the problems were,” Busch said. “It was in the front springs so we’ll see if we can’t get with the manufacturer and figure out how we can make heat not be an issue.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you feel like the punishment fit the crime,” Busch continued. “It was something that we had wrong and we did not fit the rules after the race.”
“Joe Gibbs Racing issued a statement earlier this week that we accept the penalty and we’ll move forward.”
Yet the distractions for Kyle Busch, particularly with his race car, have continued right into this weekend’s racing at Michigan.
Prior to the first practice at Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR announced that they had confiscated the oil pan on Busch’s car, along with the oil pans on the cars of his JGR teammates, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin.
NASCAR spokesperson Kerry Tharp advised that the oil pans were not approved by NASCAR and they would have to be changed prior to practice or their times would not be considered when determining the qualifying order.
Busch and his teammates have complied, however, the distraction of having yet another penalty handed down next week after the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 race and weekend are completed, hangs over his head yet again.
There is at least one piece of good news in the distraction department for Kyle Busch. His probation period from the Kevin Harvick incident has expired and he is out from under that obligation at present in Michigan.
For Busch, however, he seemed to deem it no distraction at all.
“It didn’t matter being on it or being off it,” Busch said. “I try to race the best I can each and every week as hard as I can and as clean as I can.”