For those who missed it, Busch dominated Saturday’s race, until an exploding left-front tire on the final lap forced him to limp his way home, losing the lead (and the win) to Austin Dillon, literally within sight of the checkered flag. Busch was upset with NASCAR after the race, believing officials should have displayed the yellow flag for debris from his exploding tire, thereby ending the race with him as the winner.
NASCAR saw it differently, prompting Busch to unleash a brief, post-race verbal tirade over his in-car radio, during which he declared (among other things) that the sanctioning body is guilty of “fixing races.”
Those are fightin’ words in the world of sports, where the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal threatened to destroy “America’s Game” and allegations of betting impropriety continue to make the great Pete Rose persona non grata at the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s one thing to say the umpire blew the call, and quite another to accuse the referee of intentionally manipulating the outcome of games. Busch’s allegations were clearly a case of the latter, and will almost certainly result in a substantial fine when NASCAR makes its weekly penalty announcement on Wednesday afternoon.
NASCAR made a judgment call on the final lap of Saturday’s race, just as they did during Busch’s three consecutive NXS victories in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Why, then, did Busch wait for his first loss of the 2016 campaign to air his race-fixing laundry?
The answer is simple. Busch’s comments were made because he was angry about losing a race that should have been his.
The 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion has a ferocious, competitive nature that is well-known, both in and out of the sport. His refusal to accept anything less than first place has helped make him a champion in NASCAR’s premier division, and the all-time winner in the Xfinity ranks. Unfortunately, it has also manifested itself in periodic outbursts of boorish post-race behavior.
Anger and disappointment are powerful motivators. They are not, however, good excuses.
NASCAR didn’t blow Kyle Busch’s tire Saturday. It just happened, as it happens to racers all across the nation, every single week. NASCAR responded to that exploding tire by doing what they always do; making an instantaneous decision about whether the race should continue uninterrupted, or be ended prematurely with a yellow flag. You may agree or disagree with the decision NASCAR made Saturday. Kyle Busch clearly disagreed. But disagreeing with a call does not give Busch – or anyone else -- the right to impugn the umpire and slander the integrity of the sport.
Like the rest of us, Kyle Busch can say and do anything he wants, if he’s willing to face the consequences. Call your boss a jibbering idiot if you like. Cuss out that Highway Patrolman when he pulls you over for speeding. Just be prepared for the consequences that almost certainly will follow.
On this matter, NASCAR’s rulebook is plainly written, in black and white. Its 2016 Code of Conduct calls for fines of between $10,000 and $50,000 and/or probation for “comments disparaging the sport and/or NASCAR's leadership.” Busch’s comments were clearly disparaging of both the sport and those who run it, which explains the five-figure check he will almost certainly be cutting in the next few days.
That’s called personal accountability, and it’s the price you pay for venting your spleen in a flickering moment of anger.
Words have power. And if you say it, you own it.
NASCAR is not Kyle Busch’s sport. It belongs to all of us; you, me, every driver, owner, crew chief and fan. And when someone says or does something that damages our sport, we all suffer. Freedom of expression is a wonderful thing, but your right to swing your arms ends at the tip of my nose. We deserved to spend this week reveling in a spectacular Fontana Sprint Cup Series finish. Instead, we’ve spent much of the last two days listening to an endless series of light-thinkers tell us how NASCAR manages to “fix” races, while somehow keeping it secret.
They know it’s true. The champion of the sport told them so. And that’s a crying shame, for all of us.Great racers come and go with time. They retire from the sport and eventually pass away. NASCAR, though, lives on, just as it did without Red Byron, the Flock Brothers or Raymond Parks, without Tim Richmond, Davey Allison, Dale Earnhardt or Buddy Baker.
The late Bill France, Sr. had a way of bringing racers back to reality after they became overly enamored with themselves. “We’re going to be here next week,” he’d say. “But you might not.” It’s a valuable lesson that we would all do well to keep in mind.
No single player is more important than the game, and it is our duty – all of ours – to hand the sport off to the next generation in better shape than we received it. Comments like Busch’s damage the sport, and seem to place the player far ahead of the game.
Yes, Kyle Busch is angry at NASCAR today. He’ll probably be even angrier tomorrow, when the sanctioning body hands down that five-digit fine for his poorly chosen words. But Busch is not the biggest loser in all this.Not by a long shot.