Gesture lands Busch in hot water with NASCAR
By Joe Menzer, NASCAR.COM
November 8, 2010
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Coming into Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, it looked as if Kyle Busch might have the car to beat.
Then the driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing proceeded to beat himself so others didn't have to do it for him.
I think that's just an area that in general and in life he's going to have to address -- and I think he knows that and that's nothing new. We've just got to make sure it happens sooner rather than later.
-- J.D. GIBBS
Oh, he didn't initially take the blame for it. Caught speeding by NASCAR as he exited pit road on Lap 159, Busch exploded on the team radio with a string of expletives and then compounded his misery by flashing an obscene gesture to a NASCAR official.
Instead of simply having to go to the tail end of the longest line to serve the speeding penalty, which would have left him at the end of the group of cars on the lead lap, Busch was penalized two laps for making the gesture. And there could be more to come according to Kerry Tharp, NASCAR's director of communications, competition.
"Any time you make an obscene or inappropriate gesture to one of our officials, which he did, you're subject to penalty," Tharp said. "We penalized him during the course of the race. We held him two laps. But I tell you what, we're going to go back this week when we get to Concord, N.C., and we're going to review this situation and there could be further penalties regarding the No. 18 car."
Officials told Busch's team during the race that the driver was being penalized for "unsportsmanlike conduct." Although Tharp said Busch was penalized for the gesture, the official post-race infraction sheet stated that it was for "verbal abuse to a NASCAR official" as well as noting the obscene gesture.
The incident occurred one day after Busch stormed out of the media center at TMS following the Nationwide Series race, upset over his belief that race winner Carl Edwards had illegally jumped the final restart and gotten away with it. He used swear words both during the brief media center interview and also in an earlier post-race radio interview, although it was edited out on the radio.
Tharp said any further penalties assessed to Busch would come as a result of what happened Sunday, not Saturday.
"Well, I think [Saturday] was [Saturday] during the Nationwide race," Tharp said. "Certainly we are aware of what happened. But [Sunday], I think, is a different incident and we'll take a look at it on its own merit."
J.D. Gibbs, president of the Joe Gibbs Racing team that owns Busch's No. 18 Toyota, expressed regret for Busch's actions.
"I think overall it's just he did something there that got caught on TV," Gibbs said. "Everyone saw it and I think it was their way of saying, 'Hey, here's our game; if you want to play, here are the rules you play by.'
"I would be surprised if there are any more penalties coming. But that was frustrating because we had a pretty good car and we thought we had a shot at having a good performance there."
Busch, who had the fastest car in both of Saturday's two Sprint Cup practices, was running sixth prior to getting spun out just before his problematic pit stop and came out in 35th after serving the two-lap penalty. He eventually finished 32nd.
Tharp made it clear that NASCAR would not tolerate such abuse of its officials.
"The 18 car, what he did out on pit road, was unacceptable," Tharp said. "It's inappropriate at any level of sport, so we'll take a hard look at that.
"It is severe. And we made a call there during the race. But as you well know, there are times when we also go back in the first of the week and gather and talk and take a look at the circumstances involved. Again, I don't think I can reiterate enough [that] the actions you take toward one of our officials, that's serious. We take that very seriously, and I think this is one we're going to take a very hard look at.
"It's in the rulebook. It's on the pit-road rulebook card as well. Any time you make an obscene or inappropriate gesture toward one of our officials, you're subject to a time or a 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."
Tharp dismissed Busch's contention on his team radio that perhaps he should not have been penalized for speeding in the first place.
"Well, he was speeding. It's a call that we make. We've made it before this season. It's not like this is the first time we've made a call like this," Tharp said. "He got himself in that area of where he shouldn't have been as far as coming off pit road, and we made the call, and we believe it's the right call. And then things kind of escalated after that."
Busch also later expressed regret for his actions after cooling down and admitted he had screwed up from the moment he unintentionally sped on pit road.
"It was a tough day," Busch said. "We had a fast race car. ... I can't say enough to the guys that gave me a fast race car, but unfortunately I got spun out there trying to get to the bottom lane.
"Then, on the ensuing pit stop there we tried to get tires on it and beat the pace car out. I wasn't trying to speed. ... [But] I sped on pit road; then they penalized me for it. I'm sorry I lost my cool to everybody on this team, to everybody at NASCAR and all of my guys that support me. ... It's just so frustrating the way that you have such a fast race car and 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 so behind that we could never make it up."
Gibbs admitted that Busch needs to learn to control his emotions better on the race track.
"I think over the years, every driver that we've had has been passionate about what they do," Gibbs said. "They express it in different ways. We went through a lot of the same issues when Tony Stewart was driving for us, and I think it's one of those things [where Busch has] grown in a lot of areas and really matured in a lot of areas.
"But for him around that race car when things don't go well, I think there is a real frustration there. I think that's just something that he's going to have to continue to work on -- and I think he acknowledges that, he admits that. But right when it happens, it's hard for him to control that. I think that's just an area that in general and in life he's going to have to address -- and I think he knows that and that's nothing new. We've just got to make sure it happens sooner rather than later."