When Kyle Busch looks in the mirror every morning he sees who is standing in the way of him reaching the ultimate NASCAR success.
Until Busch can keep his temper and emotions in check, he'll never be seriously considered as a Sprint Cup title contender.
Busch is one of the most talented drivers to come to NASCAR in decades. His record of 84 wins across NASCAR's top three divisions, including 22 this year alone, is nothing short of remarkable. And when he steps outside the NASCAR arena to run a late model stock car race on an off weekend or Wednesday night in the summer months he's more often than not in Victory Lane as well.
But his volatile temper and inability to keep his emotions in check continues to haunt him and remains an obstacle.
Busch's famous rage was on full display over the weekend when he erupted at NASCAR for a pit road speeding violation in Sunday's AAA Texas 500. As he was held in his pit stall to serve the one-lap penalty, Busch gave the NASCAR official assigned to his pit stall a double-barreled middle finger salute, which was also caught on his in-car camera for millions of television viewers to behold.
That resulted in an additional two-lap penalty that ended any chance of Busch coming back to score a good finish, and NASCAR put the final cherry on the sundae with a $25,000 fine and end of year probation earlier this week.
The Sunday meltdown came on the heels of a Saturday tirade that had Busch furious about what he perceived to be an illegal restart by Carl Edwards in the Nationwide Series race. Busch dropped a few choice and obscene words in his postrace media availability before finally storming off.
After he had time to cool down after Sunday's race, Busch recognized his actions were out of bounds.
"I'm sorry I lost my cool to everybody on this team, to everybody at NASCAR and all of my guys that support me," Busch said. "It's just so frustrating the way you have such a fast race car and then you get spun out. You don't expect to lose your cool, I guess."
Busch issued a formal apology via the Joe Gibbs Racing PR machine and as he's done in a variety of similar-type instances in the past vowed to be more mindful for his team, crew and sponsors.
For now, JGR is standing behind its driver although the organization recognizes incidents like what transpired in Texas need to end sooner rather than later.
"Over the years, every driver we've had has been passionate about what they do," said JGR president J.D. Gibbs. "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 [Kyle has] grown in lot of areas and really matured in a lot of areas."
While the maturation process of Busch has been evident there is still a lot of work to be done.
|Supposedly Kyle Busch has toned it down some, yet he still gets himself in plenty of trouble on the circuit. (US Presswire)|
And there was evidence that Busch had indeed dialed it down somewhat while still retaining his undeniable urge and intensity to get to Victory Lane every time he gets behind the wheel.
But clearly after the events in Texas, there is no reason to believe Busch has the capability of harnessing his emotions.
NASCAR has encouraged drivers to show more personality, be aggressive on the racetrack and infuse some of the emotion that has seemed to slip away in recent years. "Boys Have at It" was thrown out as the season's mantra at the beginning of the year and I'm not sure anyone's embraced it more on or off the track than Busch.
In many ways Busch personifies all of that and a whole lot more. You never have to wonder what's on his mind because if you wait a minute or less, Busch will tell you. Many fans welcome the behavior and attitude, heralding Busch as the exact opposite of the robot-like, sponsor-reciting, politically correct drivers who to them have sapped the fun -- and emotion -- out of the sport.
And Busch can also drive a race car (or truck) pretty darn well too, so his brashness is backed-up by the performance on the track.
But how far is too far and when does Busch's behavior get in the way of him taking his career to the next level as a legitimate Sprint Cup championship contender?
No less an evaluator of talent than Rick Hendrick decided there was more down side to Busch than up when he chose not to retain his services and allowed him to leave the team after the 2007 season.
He was promptly signed by JGR and the partnership has been successful with Busch winning multiple Sprint Cup races as well as a Nationwide Series title for the team.
Now the question becomes whether Busch can take the next step or if unlike his tempestuous JGR predecessor Stewart, who went on to win two titles for that team, he's never able to keep those emotional demons from blocking his path to possible superstardom.
• Richard Petty Motorsports plans on running all four cars in the final two races of the season but the fleet that competed last weekend in Texas has been retained in the Lone Star State. RPM plans to run those cars at the Homestead finale, but a snag in payments due to Roush Fenway Racing, which supplies the Petty organization with equipment, is reportedly holding up the process of preparing for the season finale.
• Progress on Daytona International Speedway's repaving project is ahead of schedule and the track is on target to host a Goodyear tire test in early January. A full three days of open testing has officially been scheduled with the speedway's "Preseason Thunder" sessions set for January 19-21, 2011.
• Motorcycle standout Travis Pastrana will make the move into stock car racing when he is expected to join the Diamond Waltrip Racing Nationwide Series team for 2011. A formal announcement will reportedly confirm the partnership later this week.
• Chevrolet will return to Indy Car racing in 2012 led by Chip Ganassi's championship-winning team, no doubt part of the reason Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing remained in the manufacturer's Sprint Cup camp after overtures from Ford. There is no speculation that Fiat may throw its hat into the Indy Car ring, all very positive news for the open wheel circuit as it readies for the debut of a new car in 2010.