Fort Worth, TX – When is Kyle Busch finally going to grow up?
NASCAR's drama king has really done it this time. After Busch deliberately wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr. in the early going of Friday night's Camping World Truck Series event at Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR parked him for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races here this weekend.
Busch might be facing further actions by NASCAR, as well as Joe Gibbs Racing.
After getting married last December, the "rowdy" side of Busch was supposed to disappear. Not so in 2011.
Consider how disorderly Busch has been so far this year.
The feud between Busch and Harvick has been on-going throughout the season, especially after Busch's retaliation against Hornaday at Texas. Hornaday, a record four-time Truck Series champion, presently drives for Kevin Harvick Inc.
Several weeks after his Darlington incident, Busch's troubles continued when he was cited for driving his Lexus LFA sports car at 128 mph in a 45 mph zone near the North Carolina town of Troutman. He later pled guilty to the charges, in which he received a $1,000 fine and had his state drivers license revoked for 45 days.
Then in June, he was involved in an altercation with team owner Richard Childress at Kansas. The skirmish between the two occurred in the garage area shortly after the truck race there, with Childress allegedly punching Busch several times. Busch purposely hit the side of Joey Coulter's truck during the cool-down lap in the Kansas race. Coulter, a rookie this season, drives for RCR.
Texas was certainly the big one for Busch, as his non-participation in Sunday's 500-mile Sprint Cup race will indeed end any hopes of him winning the Sprint Cup Series title. He came to Texas trailing leader Carl Edwards by 57 points in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings.
What's most disturbing about his retaliation against Hornaday is that he put Hornaday's life in danger, especially at a time when driver safety has become a major issue following the fatal crash of Dan Wheldon in last month's IndyCar race at Las Vegas. Busch hit the back of Hornaday at a high speed and then slammed him hard into the outside wall during the caution.
Hornaday came to Texas 15 points behind leader Austin Dillon in the truck standings, but Busch ruined Hornaday's opportunity to claim another series title. He trails Dillon by 48 points with only one race to go -- November 18 at Homestead, FL.
On Saturday night, Busch released a statement to apologize for his latest outburst.
"I want to sincerely apologize for my actions during Friday night's Truck Series race at Texas," Busch said in his statement. "I apologize to my fans, all my sponsors, everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports...I'd also like to apologize to Ron Hornaday Jr., and everyone associated with the No.33 team in the Truck Series."
Busch also accepted NASCAR's actions taken against him.
"I understand why I was taken out of the car for the rest of the weekend," he noted. "NASCAR officials had to act, and I accept their punishment and take full responsibility for my actions. As a racecar driver, the hardest thing to do is to sit on the sidelines listening to cars on the track when you know you should be out there competing. For this, I have no one to blame but myself."
Busch attended Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Texas, sitting atop his team's pit box and watching Michael McDowell drive his car around the fast 1.5-mile track.
There's no doubt that Busch's latest escapade has jeopardized JGR's relationship with its sponsors for his No.18 team in NASCAR's top-two series.
"I think right now we're just trying to handle the first things first for us, and there's so many things to consider and so many people to meet with," team owner Joe Gibbs said during a press conference on Saturday at Texas. "I think we're still early in the process, and we're trying to work our way through it as best and fast as we can."
Busch became the third driver to be suspended for a Cup race within the past decade.
Harvick sat out the 2002 spring Cup race at Martinsville one day after he was parked for rough driving in the truck event there. NASCAR also grounded Robby Gordon for the August 2007 race at Pocono following his on-track altercation with Marcos Ambrose in the inaugural Nationwide event at Montreal.
Prior to the start of the 2010 season, NASCAR adopted its "boys, have at it" policy, in which the sanctioning body relaxed on patrolling its drivers in handling affairs on the racetrack.
But in some cases, NASCAR officials have been forced to take actions lighter than the one they did against Busch, particularly the incident between Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski in last year's spring Cup race at Atlanta. Edwards intentionally wrecked Keselowski, putting him airborne and then into the wall along the frontstretch.
"It's natural in our industry and our sport, for NASCAR's regulatory responsibilities, to watch the evolution of a policy or procedure and learn from it and possibly react differently," NASCAR President Mike Helton said. "Although I would remind you in the incident with Carl Edwards and Keselowski in Atlanta, there was a reaction for us. There was points and money involved in that reaction, so there was some sort of reaction.
"There's been a lot of other occurrences that we felt like were more in opportunity to responsibility given to drivers along the way, but there are lines that have been crossed. The 18 [Busch] and 29 [Harvick] in Darlington got a reaction from us. [Friday night's truck race at Texas] is the most severe reaction under these circumstances."
Busch's actions at Texas clearly crossed the line of boys, have at it, and NASCAR sent the right message by parking him for the remainder of this weekend's activities.
If there's one thing Busch should learn from all of this...it's time to grow up.