Kyle needs to pay attention now

BY Jeff Hammond • November 9, 2011

Naturally the furor from the weekend was about NASCAR parking Kyle Busch following his on-track run-in with Ron Hornaday last Friday night during the Camping World Truck Series race.

It’s been a long time since NASCAR has parked a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. For a true racer, like Kyle is, that is the worst punishment that you can dish out.

Back in the day, when I worked for Junior Johnson, Rick Hendrick, Darrell Waltrip and Jack Roush, I didn’t want to disappoint them. I didn’t want to do anything that would damage their reputation. I cared a lot about that and never forgot what they had done for the sport.

Almost to a man, the drivers I had the pleasure of working with felt the same way. They got the big picture that it wasn’t just about them, it was about the entire organization. They, like myself, knew that what we did reflected right back on the owners.

My big question is, I just don’t know whether the drivers over there at Joe Gibbs Racing feel the same way. If they don’t, well it is time for Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano to see the big picture. Maybe what happened to Kyle this past weekend will be a wake-up call to all of them.

Let’s be clear here, the talent that lies within Kyle Busch is extraordinary. The skills he possesses as a race car driver don’t come along every day. There is also no doubt that Kyle has done a lot of growing up this year in the way he has handled adversity.

What Friday night showed us is the demon that Kyle battles is still there and can be released sometimes. The common denominator in these situations is Kyle Busch, no matter who the other driver might be. Right now it would be hard to find a driver out there that hasn’t had a situation with Kyle.

I also think this brings back to light the situation that arose earlier this year between Kyle Busch and Richard Childress. When Richard reached that point where he felt his drivers, their teams, his own organization and even himself were being disrespected by Kyle, he went after him.

I think Friday’s Truck race was the proverbial straw that broke the NASCAR camel’s back. They obviously felt they had now been disrespected enough and so they sent a very clear and loud message to Kyle by parking him.

I truly hope Kyle gets the message. There is no doubt with all the vast talent that he has on the racetrack, if he could only translate that over into his relationship with the fans, the other drivers, his sponsors, the owners and NASCAR itself, Kyle Busch would go down in history as one of the most legendary drivers that has ever come into our sport.

Like we’ve said before, though, it all starts and stops with Kyle. You go back to the speeding ticket incident earlier this year, well that was a flagrant disrespect of the public and the laws we all live under. Friday night in the Truck race at Texas Motor Speedway, it was a flagrant disrespect of the integrity of our sport and what we stand for. Not only that, but he clearly disrespected another driver and that driver’s safety.

Again, I just hope Kyle gets the message. Personally I like the guy. He is one heck of a personality. There are so many good things about Kyle and what he does for charity, but you simply can’t do what he did Friday night and just assume people will accept it.

NASCAR didn’t accept any of it.

After parking him for the rest of the Texas race weekend, they have since fined Kyle $50,000 and put him on probation until the end of the year. What I don’t think a lot of people picked up on yet, and what is really razor-edge sharp to me, was NASCAR’s wording of the fine. If Kyle does anything between now and the end of 2011 that in NASCAR’s mind crosses the line, NASCAR could potentially suspend Kyle indefinitely.

You think being forced to sit out two races at Texas was brutal? Just wait until you are told you are sitting out a season. I challenge anyone to tell me that wouldn’t get your attention if you were a true racer.

There is no doubt that Kyle Busch is at a crossroad. Which direction will he go?

I think a real telling sign was Sunday when he went up and sat on the pit box all race long. That spoke volumes to me. He could have very easily jumped on his jet and gone home Friday night after he received word that NASCAR had parked him. I think what he did Sunday shows how much he does care and that he really gets it.

I truly hope Kyle now realizes that all the driving talent in the world, which he does possess, does not give him free rein to do anything he wants, whenever he wants, in whatever series he wants. There are harsh consequences that can wreck your career when you disrespect our sport. Kyle saw just the tip of the iceberg at Texas.

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