Ever since NASCAR announced it was going to let the boys “have at it,” that is exactly what we have been seeing in each of its three major series. Last Friday at Texas Motor Speedway in the truck series race, Kyle Busch found out just how far the governing body’s leash could stretch as he became the first driver since Kevin Harvick at Martinsville in 2002 to be parked for the weekend.
Early in the race, Busch was running on the outside of threewide racing with Ron Hornaday Jr. on his inside when the two had contact resulting in both cars hitting the outside wall. That wasn’t the end of the contact. As soon after both drivers got back in line, Busch ran his truck into the rear of Hornaday forcing him to hit hard head-on with the outside wall. Hornaday wasn’t injured, but the intentional push by Busch forced NASCAR to draw a line in its “have at it” policy.
On Saturday morning, NASCAR informed Busch and his Sprint Cup owner Joe Gibbs that he would be parked for the remainder of the Texas weekend. That forced him to miss a start in both the Sprint and Nationwide Series. Gibbs was left to scramble to fill Busch’s seat for both races as well as inform his sponsors of what was taking place and the negative press that was sure to follow.
Gibbs turned to Busch’s teammate Denny Hamlin to drive on Saturday in the Nationwide race, and called on Michael McDowell to take the green flag on Sunday. Busch was sitting in seventh place in the Cup standings with practically no chance of winning, but by missing the race he automatically fell another 43 points to the leader and could now be scrambling just to finish in the all-important top-10 that automatically gives a driver a seat at the season-ending banquet in Las Vegas.
Busch’s actions left Gibbs with the difficult task of informing all of his sponsors about what was taking place at a time when sponsorship dollars are hard to come by. Toyota was immediate with its support of Joe Gibbs Racing, but it is Busch’s Sprint Cup sponsor Mars and Nationwide sponsor A-Line Designs that have the most to lose as they put up the money to have Busch drive cars with their names across the hood.
Almost immediately after word spread throughout the garage area of Busch being pulled for the remainder of the weekend, there was talk that Gibbs may pull Busch from behind the wheel for the final two races of the season. Gibbs is one of the most respected owners in the series, and his history from his days in the NFL is that when you work or play for him, you are expected to represent the organization in a first class manner and if not he will take steps to see that you do. What that may be, we may be soon finding out.
CHASE NOTES: Both Talladega and Martinsville lived up to their status as being a couple of wild card races on the 10-race Chase schedule. Both tracks were tough on the Chase drivers and after each checkered flag there was a big shakeup in the standings. That same scenario could very well play out again as Phoenix might just join the two tracks as a wild card. What awaits the Cup Series this weekend isn’t the same old Phoenix International Raceway, as the track has been repaved and reconfigured. The frontstretch has been widened by 10 feet and the dogleg on the backstretch has been moved out 95 feet. Additional banking has also been added to the corners, but the real concern will be how much rubber has been laid down on the new pavement. NASCAR held a two-day test on the new track in early October with 35 teams trying to figure out the newly reconfigured one-mile oval. All of the changes have made every team’s notes from past visits to the track obsolete and that will put a premium on those crew chiefs that can adapt to the new surface, not only during practice and qualifying but more importantly during the race.
Race Preview Event: Kobalt Tools 500 (k) Track: Phoenix International Raceway (1-mile oval, turns 1&2- 11 degrees of banking, 3&4- 9 degrees) Date: Nov. 13, 3 p.m. TV: ESPN Radio: MRN Defending Champion: Carl Edwards