With just four races complete in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Kyle Busch finds himself at a competitive crossroads.
Despite a season-best third-place finish Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, the 2015 series champion finds himself a disappointing 13th in the championship standings, embroiled in the sort of controversy that has sidetracked him more than once in the past.
Two weeks ago, Busch and Joey Logano tangled while battling for fourth place on the final lap at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Busch spun in the final turn, finishing 22nd before confronting Logano after the race, throwing a punch and triggering a wild melee that left him with a bloody cut on his forehead.
Busch vowed revenge immediately after the scuffle, saying of Logano, “He’s going to get it.”
NASCAR declined to sanction either driver, with Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell saying, “Kyle Busch and Joey Logano are two of the most passionate and competitive drivers in the sport. Both competitors are very clear on our expectations going forward and we will be meeting with them in person prior to practice on Friday in Phoenix.”
Little is known about Friday’s 15-minute meeting. O’Donnell made it clear that the sanctioning body will not look kindly on any further incidents between the two, saying, “If it escalates beyond to something intentional on the race track, we were very clear that we'll react."
|Busch and Logano tangled in Las Vegas|
Logano, meanwhile, struck a conciliatory tone, saying, “I tried to explain that I made a mistake underneath him. He asked for some data (and) I was able to show him that. It was pretty clear in my opinion what happened, so that's that. I hope he's able to see that and know that I was sincere about it. Time will tell."
Busch chose a different path, taking a page from the playbook of Seattle Seahawk running back Marshawn Lynch, who once filled an entire press conference by answering every question with a terse, “I’m only here so I don’t get fined.”
“Everything’s great,” said a tight-lipped Busch after emerging from the NASCAR hauler Friday. “Looking forward to getting back in my race car and having a fantastic weekend here in Phoenix.”
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver repeated his "everything's great" five times -- in response to five different questions – before being ushered away by his PR reps, raising the art of sarcasm to a whole new level.
Their 22nd-place showing in Las Vegas followed a 38th in the season-opening Daytona 500 and a 16th at Atlanta.