NASCAR: Busch barred in Texas

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 6, 2011

Associated Press
FORT WORTH, Tex. — Kyle Busch finally went too far for NASCAR, even in the era of “Boys, have at it.”
The often volatile Busch was barred Saturday from driving in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races at Texas this weekend, a rare step taken by NASCAR after he deliberately wrecked championship contender Ron Hornaday Jr. during a caution in the Truck Series on Friday night.
On Saturday night, Busch issued a letter in which he said he wanted to “sincerely apologize” to fans, his sponsors, Hornaday and his team, as well everybody associated with Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“I understand why I was taken out of the car for the rest of the weekend. NASCAR officials had to act, and I accept their punishment and take full responsibility for my actions,” Busch wrote. “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.”
NASCAR President Mike Helton announced the penalty Saturday morning after a meeting with Busch and Joe Gibbs, his Sprint Cup and Nationwide car owner.
“The responsibility that over the past two or three seasons we’ve given back to the drivers came I think with a very clear understanding that there could be a line that got crossed,” Helton said. “And as annoying as the comments that I’ve made personally in the past about we’ll know it when we see it might have been, we saw it.”
Busch is the first driver since Robby Gordon in August 2007 to be taken out of a Cup race for actions in another NASCAR race the same weekend. Kevin Harvick, the owner of Hornaday’s truck, was kept out of the Cup race at Martinsville in 2002 after an incident in a truck race there the previous day.
“This is a tough situation for us and basically what we’re trying to do is go through it the right way,” Gibbs said. “Everybody here with our race team is trying to meet with everybody that was affected by this and obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do there and a lot of people to see.”
Michael McDowell will take over in Sunday’s race for Busch, seventh in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings.
Helton didn’t rule out more penalties for Busch after the weekend, but said not letting him race shows how serious NASCAR felt about what happened Friday night.
Gibbs said he hadn’t had time to determine whether Busch would face additional penalties from the team. The owner met with Busch in the driver’s motor home, but didn’t share what was said.
“It’s one of those personal conversations you have when a real tough situation like this comes up,” Gibbs said.
Harvick said there has to be an end to the retaliation piece of the “Boys, have at it” mantra.
“Whether it’s Kyle Busch or anybody else. This is not late model racing. I mean, this is professional stock car racing,” Harvick said Saturday. “We all make mistakes. We all do things sometimes out of character. You know if things continue to progress, we’re going to hurt somebody.”
Hornaday was knocked out of Friday night’s truck race on the 14th of 148 laps when Busch retaliated for contact between them by pushing the 4-time champion into the wall.
Busch, driving a truck he owns, got behind Hornaday and kept pushing until the No. 33 truck wound up in the wall. NASCAR immediately parked Busch then, and officials met with him briefly after that race before telling him to come back Saturday morning.
“I lost my cool, no doubt about it. I’ve been wrecked four weeks in a row, and I’ve had enough of it, and I retaliated,” Busch said by his hauler after the wreck Friday night. “So it’s certainly my fault for doing that. If everybody wants to say, ‘Hornaday is racing for a championship, roll over,’ that’s not my fashion. That’s not anybody else’s fashion out here.”
Hornaday dropped from third to fourth in points.