Roger Diez: Kyle Busch gets what he deserves
For the Nevada Appeal
It appears that NASCAR views “Boys, have at it” the same way the Supreme Court views pornography. As one justice said, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.”
And NASCAR saw it last Friday night when Kyle Busch deliberately wrecked Ron Hornaday under caution in the Camping World Truck series race. The crash took Hornaday out of contention for the series championship, and NASCAR set Busch down for the rest of the weekend, mathematically eliminating him from any shot at the Sprint Cup championship as well.
Can you say “poetic justice?”
NASCAR subsequently fined Kyle $50,000 and put him on probation for the rest of the season. Although a transcript of the meeting in the NASCAR hauler wasn’t released, I have no doubt that Busch became the latest driver to hear the “You need NASCAR more than NASCAR needs you” speech from Mike Helton.
Busch’s weekend ban and subsequent fine and probation may be just the tip of the iceberg, as both Joe Gibbs and sponsor Mars are taking a hard look at continued association with the Shrub. In fact, Mars has pulled its M&M’s sponsorship for the final two races of the season, and Gibbs has had talks with Aric Almirola about possibly replacing Busch for the final two races. Interstate Batteries will be on the hood of the number 18 Toyota for Phoenix and Homestead. In addition, Busch’s Nationwide sponsor, Z-Line, has requested Denny Hamlin replace him in the car for the series finale at Homestead.
This weekend’s racing at Phoenix International Raceway should be interesting, with new track pavement and a slight reconfiguration making everybody’s track and setup notes obsolete.
As with most newly paved tracks, teams expect a one-groove line. If that’s the case, we’ll see some pushing and shoving to accomplish passes during today’s Nationwide race and Sunday’s Sprint Cup contest. Barring points leader Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart taking each other out in the first lap, they will most likely be the only two drivers going to Homestead next week with any chance at the championship trophy. Stewart is only three points behind Edwards, while Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth at 33 and 38 back respectively only have a chance if both the leaders drop out of Sunday’s race early. Brad Keselowski, 49 points back, and Jimmie Johnson, 55 points in arrears, are extremely long shots. Dale Earnhardt Jr. at 79 back, Jeff Gordon at 81 back, and Kurt Busch at 87 back will require a major miracle to stay in the hunt, and Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Ryan Newman have already been mathematically eliminated.
The Nationwide series also is a two-horse race, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 17 points up on Elliott Sadler. The next nearest competitors are Justin Allgaier and Aric Almirola, tied at 99 points behind the leader. As mentioned earlier, Ron Hornaday is out of contention for the Camping World Truck title, leaving only Austin Dillon, Johnny Sauter (20 back), and James Buescher (28 back) in contention with just the Homestead race remaining on the schedule.
Formula One is in action this weekend at Abu Dhabi after the race was postponed earlier in the season due to political unrest. The Brazilian race in two weeks will close out the season.
With both the driver’s and manufacturer’s championships sewn up, the main interest is in seeing if Sebastian Vettel will continue running up the score on his rivals. He has already set a record for the most laps led in a season (711 and counting), besting Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record of 692. He’s scored the most points in a season (374 and counting), and if he wins the final two races he will eclipse Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 victories. He’s also on track to best Mansell’s record number of poles (14) from 1992. To be fair, Mansell’s 1992 season was 16 races long versus 19 this year. Vettel also is the youngest two-time World Champion, as well as the youngest in several other record categories.
Finally, I’d like to recognize my fellow veterans on the occasion of Friday’s Veterans Day. Ladies and gentlemen of the armed forces past and present, thank you for your service.