Kyle Busch dropped from third to seventh in the Sprint Cup championship chase Sunday at Kansas Speedway, and he has David Reutimann (and himself) to blame.
Busch triggered the latest installment in NASCAR’s new “Boys Have At It” era Sunday, bumping Reutimann’s Toyota early in the Price Chopper 400 and spinning Reutimann into the Turn Two wall, trunk first. "It was my fault,” admitted Busch after the race. “The guy was loose off the bottom and I got into him.”
In-car video showed Reutimann was only 12-14 inches from the bottom of the racing groove, however, causing the Zephyrhills, Fla., driver to insist that he was the latest victim of Busch’s much-discussed aggressiveness. "I don't care whether you're in the Chase or not," he said. "You better think about who you're running into before you run into them. You won't get respect as a Chaser if you don't respect everyone else."
Reutimann responded in kind with 112 laps remaining, forcing Busch – then running seventh – into the backstretch wall and spinning himself out in the process. Busch pitted under the ensuing caution with damage to both the front and rear of his M&Ms Toyota, and battled those problems for the remainder of the day before finishing 21st.
Asked if their second clash had been intentional, Reutimann deadpanned, “What do you think? Maybe I just got tight."
“It's unfortunate he elected to do what he did (to) a guy in the Chase,” complained Busch after the race. “He could have wrecked me next year in any of the first 26 races." Reutimann remained unapologetic, saying, “You can say all you want about Kyle being an aggressive driver. You guys (in the media) can sugarcoat it. He just rolled over me. I'm at the bottom of the track and he had the whole top of the track to go to, but I got wrecked."
There will be no shortage of debate in the coming days about the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of Reutimann’s actions. Some will argue that Chase drivers deserve special treatment due to their championship status, while others believe it is the Chasers’ job to ensure that none of their peers feel compelled to send a little “frontier justice” their way.
The bottom line for Busch is the 80-point deficit he must overcome in his quest to claim the 2010 Sprint Cup championship. Reutimann faces nothing more than a few days of unwanted scrutiny as NASCAR’s newest poster boy for “Payback’s A Bitch.”