By Pete Pistone
(Gibbs is standing by Busch but the relationship between owner and driver is at a critical point)
AVONDALE, Ariz. - It's a safe bet to say Kyle Busch just went through the worst week of his life.
Now the world watches to see just what comes from it.
Busch literally turned the NASCAR world upside down with his behavior in last week's truck race at Texas and its aftermath of being parked, fined, penalized and basically losing a lucrative Sprint Cup sponsor for the rest of the season.
When Busch and Joe Gibbs met the media Friday morning at Phoenix the words that came from both were expected and did seem sincere.
“Like I mentioned before, it’s certainly been a trying week," said Busch, who looked like a beaten man sitting next to his car owner. "This has been a situation where I never could have dreamed it could have happened and I don’t wish it upon anybody. For me, certainly I’ve had a lot of time to sit and reflect and think and decide and look at what the future entails."
The immediate future has Busch back behind the wheel for the rest of this season albeit without M&M's on his No. 18 ride and long-time Joe Gibbs Racing partner Interstate Batteries picking up the slack.
Despite its unhappiness with Busch's antics and subsequent decision to sit out the remainder of this year, Gibbs was quick to point out Mars Inc. will be back in 2012 with Busch as the driver.
However there was much speculation during the ordeal if Busch would indeed return at all to the ride. Rumors swirled in the frenzied days leading up to Friday's session on a variety of scenarios that ranged from M&Ms taking a hike completely from JGR to Busch being kicked to the curb by Gibbs as a last straw.
Busch said all those thoughts crossed his mind but at the end of the day Gibbs' support ruled the day.
"Obviously, emotions run high and I think emotions ran high on everyone this week, including myself, which obviously started the whole ordeal," Busch explained "For me, when you sit back and reflect and think about everything and you’re sitting there on thesidelines on Saturday -- you're sitting there watching your car race on Sunday -- that’s a huge deal. That’s a huge disappointment not only to myself, but more importantly to my team. All of these guys at Joe Gibbs Racing that had nothing to do with Friday night -- I feel a tremendous amount of remorse for. And, so I’ve got to gain their respect back.
"Was there a point in which I thought, ‘Do I have a ride?’ Of course there was. Yeah, I thought that. Was there a point in which Joe ever told me that, ‘Hey, we’re looking at terminating this?’ No."
So his ride is safe and Gibbs appears ready to move on, although the possibility of more punishment from inside the race team is still on the table.
Busch vowed on Friday to use the incident as the jumping off point to become a better driver, competitor and person.
“I don’t think there was any doubt that anybody was wanting me, or saying that I needed to change on the race track," Busch said. "There’s a fact that there’s things that go on on the race track that make you competitive, that give you that spirit, that will to win and some days when a bad decision is made it deters from that. So, obviously there’s more behavioral issues than there is competitive issues, and that’s what I think we’ll build on.”
I want to believe this is Busch's "aha moment" and he does indeed change his ways coming out of the ordeal. He seemed sincere in his thoughts and expressed remorse on Friday, something that was in short supply immediately following his altercation with Hornaday.
But I've seen this movie before and because of that color me skeptical.
Make no mistake NASCAR is a better place with Kyle Busch in it. There's no question he brings an unparalleled level of electricity, personality and attention to the sport .
However even some of the most die-hard Busch fans saw the Texas incident as over the line and indefensible. A return to any thing remotely close to such an egregious act will put Busch's popularity in severe danger.
Busch has the opportunity to go from this rock bottom spot he now finds himself in and climb back up the mountain.
And there is absolutely no more room for any stumbles.
While NASCAR is better with Busch around, the driver needs the sport much more than the other way around.
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