This weekend, all three of NASCAR’s national series — Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck — are at Texas Motor Speedway, making it the one-year anniversary of when things kind of looked to fell apart, racing-wise, for Kyle Busch.
In case you don’t remember, here’s a refresher. Busch was slated to pull triple-duty a year ago at Texas, driving a truck, a Nationwide car and a Cup car during over the course of the weekend. He ended up racing the truck only, and NASCAR decided that it wouldn’t have even let him complete that race if damage from an on-track incident hadn’t wrecked his truck beyond enough repair to get him back into the race.
You see, that on-track incident involved Busch intentionally wrecking series championship contender Ron Hornaday after the two had previously made contact on the race track. NASCAR frowned on Busch’s temper affecting the Truck Series championship battle, so Busch was parked for the remainder of the race.
The following morning, NASCAR President Mike Helton announced that the suspension would carry over to the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races still remaining for the weekend. And Busch, then a championship contender in the Sprint Cup Series, was forced to miss a race late in that year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.
More fallout followed, as the driver’s Sprint Cup sponsor, M&Ms/Mars, expressed disappointment, and Nationwide sponsor Z-Line Designs requested that Busch be removed from the car for the remaining two series races of the season. Rumors circulated that Busch’s status as driver for Joe Gibbs Racing was even in doubt.
Busch kept his job at JGR and M&Ms/Mars stayed onboard, as Busch continued on with his Kyle Busch Motorsports truck team and expanded KBM to include a Nationwide Series program, moving to his own team to compete in Nationwide competition while still driving the No. 18 Sprint Cup car for JGR.
But has Busch really completely recoved from last year’s late-season drama? He’s racing less that he used to, since he’s only appeared sparingly in Truck Series competition this year. His start in the truck race at Texas on Friday was only his second of the season, opting instead to focus on his Sprint Cup Series efforts, when it comes to driving, and getting the Nationwide program off the ground.
Without the owner behind the wheel, the truck team has been absent from victory lane all season, something the young team’s not used to in it’s short history. Although Busch has made several starts in the Nationwide Series, the circuit’s all-time winningest driver hasn’t won in that series this year, at least not as a driver. His brother, Kurt Busch, did take him to victory lane as a Nationwide Series team owner earlier this year at Richmond International Raceway.
Busch’s Sprint Cup results this year just aren’t what they used to be, either. Not only did he fail to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, he’s only made his way to victory lane once this season. Instead, he’s watched his JGR teammate Denny Hamlin battle for a championship while also leading the series in wins for most of the year.
Call it “Kyle Busch: one year later,” but is it a new and improved Kyle Busch? According to Busch, himself, he worked on his attitude during the offseason, but has it been to the detriment of his on-track performance? Maybe Busch just doesn’t know how to race as the “nice guy.”
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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