By Seth Livingstone
NASCAR Wire Service
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Across the board, drivers marveled at the speed of NASCAR’s Generation-6 cars during qualifying for Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
None more than Kyle Busch, the fastest of nine drivers to break the 15-second mark on their qualifying lap. Prior to Friday, only three drivers (Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon) had turned a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying lap in less than 15 seconds.
“I like driving it,” said Busch, whose 11th career pole marked his first Coors Light Pole Award at Bristol and the first time he’d qualified higher than ninth on the .533-mile oval. “You can drive it a lot more like the older car we had years ago where you can abuse it a little bit.
“The previous (Generation-5) car was all about being smooth and precise. (With) this one, you can make a little more speed by driving it a little harder.”
Busch, no stranger to victory lane at Bristol, captured the pole with a lap 129.535 mph (14.813 seconds) in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Newman’s track record, set in 2003, had been 128.709 mph.
Each of Friday’s top three qualifiers — Busch, Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin — shattered Newman’s mark. Hamlin looked like he might join his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate on the front row until Kahne knocked him down a peg.
Brian Vickers, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr. also eclipsed 15 seconds, with Joey Logano rounding out the top 10.
“The car felt great during that lap,” said Busch, who has come from off the pace to win five times (including four of the last eight Cup races) at Bristol. “We’ve never really worried too much about qualifying runs. We unloaded with a really good race car and we just kept fine-tuning to make it a little bit better — and we were able to get it where it was pretty quick in practice.”
For Hamlin, if even for just a couple laps, it was felt good to get back to all-out racing. Hamlin had spent recent days embroiled in controversy, refusing to pay a NASCAR-issued fine after critical comments regarding the Gen-6 car at Phoenix.
He had no gripe with his machinery on Friday.
“I’m pretty happy with what we’ve got,” said Hamlin, who earlier in the day said he had “bigger fish to fry” than worrying about the $25,000 fine. “For my team’s sake, we need to focus on running as good as we can and trying to make this Chase. Any distraction is something that you don’t need — especially when the competition is so close. You just can’t afford anything that hampers your ability to go win, so this is going to be a step in the right direction for us.”
Kahne, driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, thought he might have challenged Busch had he not been a little tight between Turns 1 and 2.
“I felt like I may have given up a little bit in 1 and 2, which would have made it really close for the pole,” Kahne said. “But still we were very good in 3 and 4. The car was balanced really nice.”
How fast can cars go at Bristol? Maybe closer to 14 seconds than 15, according to Busch.
Kyle Busch issued this apology following being parked by NASCAR for intentionally crashing another driver under caution Friday night.
He apologized to race fans, his team, sponsors and to the victim of his crash Ron Hornaday.
Here’s the letter in Kyle’s own words:
I’ve had a lot of time today to sit and reflect, and try to put my thoughts into words as best I can.
I want to sincerely apologize for my actions during Friday night’s Truck Series race at Texas.
I apologize to my fans, all my sponsors, everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports.
After talking with my team, it’s great to have their support and encouragement to assure me that there are better days ahead. Even though this took place while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, I am sorry for how difficult this has been for everyone associated with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series teams.
I’d also like to apologize to Ron Hornaday Jr., and everyone associated with the No. 33 team in the Truck Series.
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.
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.
Through a lot of support from the people around me, I feel like I’ve made a lot of strides this year, but this was certainly a step backward. Moving forward, I will do everything I possibly can to represent everyone involved in a positive manner. However, I know my long-term actions will have more of a bearing than anything I say right now.
Kyle Busch will not race in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Texas. NASCAR has parked him following an on-track incident in Friday night’s truck race.
Early in the race Busch and Hornaday were involved in a minor crash that would normally be considered “just racing.” Both drivers scraped the wall but neither appeared to suffer any major damage. Not until the caution flag flew, that is.
Kyle Busch never slowed down. Instead he put his bumper against Hornaday’s bumper and pushed Hornaday until both trucks crashed hard into the wall. The crash was so intense that Hornaday’s rear wheels lifted off the track, and the front of his truck was demolished.
NASCAR immediately parked Busch for the remainder of the truck race.
On Saturday morning NASCAR announced that Busch would not be allowed to race in Saturday’s Nationwide race or Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Texas.
NASCAR President Mike Helton made the announcement explaining that NASCAR would know when the line was crossed, and that the line has been crossed.
Kyle Busch blamed the crash on Hornaday being too aggressive early in the race. “Maybe Ron could have played it a little bit smarter on lap 15,” Busch explained.
“If I just lay over and give up everything for Ron Hornaday that’s not Kyle Busch’s fashion, said Busch. “I’m out here to win a race just like everyone else is.”
“I ended up losing my cool. I’ve been wrecked 4 weeks in a row, and finally I just had enough of it.”
Ron Hornaday didn’t see things the same as Kyle Busch. He was at the NASCAR trailer after being released from the infield care center demanding Busch be parked.
“So I can go over and beat his ass and let’s have at it,” said Hornaday. “He lives too close to me. We’ll see what NASCAR does. If they don’t handle it right, I’ll be over at his house Monday morning.”
Did NASCAR do the right thing?
Kyle Has Lost His License
Kyle Busch has lost his driver’s license for 45 days after pleading guilty to driving 128 in a 45 mph zone. The NASCAR points leader was ticketed last May while driving a yellow Lexus LFA sports car outside of Charlotte.
Busch appeared in court Tuesday where he received the 45 day license suspension along with a $1000 fine. Busch was also placed on 1 year of unsupervised probation. He pled guilty to the speeding charge and no contest on the reckless driving count.
Attorney Cliff Homesley represented Mr. Busch and tried to convince the court that Busch was a highly-skilled professional driver and that driving 128 mph on a public road wasn’t considered reckless when performed by Kyle Busch.
The attorney also argued that the Lexus had superior handling and braking capabilities compared to other cars on the road and that driving the Lexus at that speed would be like driving any other car at 60 mph.
The judge didn’t buy any of that.
Now the question is will NASCAR allow Busch to race without a driver’s license. The answer is almost certainly yes. But is that the right call – should Kyle Busch be allowed to race at the highest level of NASCAR with no driver’s license?
In winning Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 Kyle Busch officially locked himself into a position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Dale Jr and Tony Stewart On the Edge
The top 8 drivers will all make it in with no problem barring any catastrophic problems. It is Dale Earnhardt Jr and Tony Stewart who are on the bubble. Both of them stand on the edge of being in or out. If either of them has any trouble going down to the wire Clint Bowyer is standing by ready to take advantage in 11th.
The No. 18 Toyota of Kyle Busch passed post-race inspection with flying colors. Still officials loaded Busch’s Toyota onto the NASCAR hauler and are headed back to the NASCAR R&D facility for a closer inspection. I don’t think they will find anything, do you?
Can Kyle Busch take the championship from Jimmie Johnson?
“You know, we’re 13 weeks from me being able to answer your question,” said Kyle Busch. “Certainly I’d like to give ourselves a lot of credit that we can do that, that we have the ability to do that.”
If not Kyle or Jimmie, who else has a shot to be NASCAR’s 2011 champion?
Following Saturday’s truck series Richard Childress is one of the few who can say he beat Kyle Busch – literally.
Childress grabbed Busch – put him in a headlock, and landed several punches before bystanders could separate them.
Childress was angry with Busch after contact with RCR driver Joey Coulter in the closing laps. The latest in a string of incidents between Busch and RCR drivers.
There is no doubt that Richard Childress intended to get Kyle’s attention. Just before the incident Childress was seen slipping his expensive watch into his pocket.
Childress was barred from pit road at Sunday’s STP 400 at Kansas Speedway. NASCAR also told him not to attend the pre-race driver’s meeting.
NASCAR President Mike Helton considered banning Childress from the speedway entirely before deciding that Childress should be allowed to stay as a team owner.
NASCAR officials have indicated that a statement regarding any punishment for Childress would be forthcoming on Monday – a day earlier than most penalties are announced.
What do you think an appropriate punishment would be?
Ticketed for 128 in a 45
After receiving a speeding ticket for doing 128 mph in a 45 mph zone Kyle Busch is facing a possible suspension of his North Carolina driver’s license. North Carolina law allows up to a 60 day suspension for violations in this category — 83 mph over the limit.
Busch was test-driving a bright yellow Lexus LFA just south of Troutman, NC on Perth Road when a deputy caught him on radar. His wife Samantha was in the passenger seat.
“Today I received a traffic citation in Iredell County,” Busch explained in an official release. “I was test driving a new sports car and I got carried away. I went beyond the speed I should have been going on a public road. I apologize to the public, my fans, sponsors, and race teams for my lack of judgment.”
So far NASCAR has no plans to bar Busch from competition over the speeding ticket. Do you think a valid driver’s license should be required to compete in NASCAR?
It was a first win for Regan Smith and another chapter in the dramatic story of Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick at Darlington Saturday night.
Smith’s Chevrolet was fast on old tires as he held off Carl Edwards’ Ford in the final laps. Smith even hit the wall at one point but was still able to hold off Edwards.
But it was after the checkered flag when the action really started to pick up. Kevin Harvick wanted a word with Kyle Busch. Maybe more than a word.
In the final laps Harvick slowed just enough to allow Busch to pass, then got back in the gas and gave a shove to the rear of Busch’s No. 18 Toyota.
But Kyle Busch was having none of that. Kyle intentionally drove Harvick’s No. 29 Chevy down the racetrack causing Harvick to wreck his own teammate, the No. 33 of Clint Bowyer.
Then Busch came around and took another swipe at Harvick’s Chevy sending it spinning. It was two for one shopping at Richard Childress Racing for Kyle Busch.
Harvick stopped his car directly in front of Kyle Busch and climbed out of his car ready for a fight. At this point Busch made his best move of the night. He waited until Harvick was out of the car and drove away – clipping Harvick’s Chevy in the process and crashing it one more time into the pit wall.
It’s a good thing Busch got away. My money is on Kevin Harvick in a street fight like that. That may be Kyle Busch’s smartest move yet.
What do you think? Could Kyle have taken him, or was he smart to run away.
Kyle Busch won Saturday night’s Crown Royal Presents The Matthew & Daniel
Hansen 400 at Richmond by conserving enough fuel to make it to the checkered flag. He actually ran out of gas doing victory burnouts.
“It was important to save fuel there under the cautions,” Kyle said of the race winning strategy. “Fortunately we had that long caution flag. That probably saved us. I didn’t expect to run out on my way back to the winner’s circle.”
So is a race won on fuel strategy as meaningful as a race won on speed or driver’s talent?
Strategy is a big part of NASCAR racing. But so is building fast cars and having the courage to drive them beyond their limits.
Kyle Busch is not going to be giving the trophy back anytime soon, but do you think a fuel mileage win means as much to him as a duel to the finish?
What do you think of fuel mileage races?
Has Kyle Busch has just been crowned the new King of Bristol? With his victory in the Jeff Byrd 500 Sunday he has won the past 5 NASCAR events there across all 3 series at the Tennessee track: Cup, Nationwide and Truck.
After the race Kyle Busch had some comments for the fans who were booing him during driver introductions – and whether he could ever change the way they felt about him.
“I don’t know about the fans. I don’t know if it’s that easy to change opinion sometimes,” said Busch. “It’s definitely fun to have a good attitude about things and to come into this weekend and have good results, good success out of it.”
When asked why he seemed a little more thoughtful and laid back this year Kyle laughed and responded “what are you talking about.” Team general manager J.D. Gibbs simply pointed to Kyle’s new wedding ring.
Carl Edwards felt he could have won the race if he had paid Kyle back for an incident at Phoenix with a harder hit at the end.
“When he got to me that one time, I’m like, oh, man. That was your shot, so nice try,” said Busch of Edwards attempt at the bump and run. He didn’t get it done. I thought, Man, if I could just get away from him, I wouldn’t have to worry. Concentrate, get going.
“It didn’t happen. Just basically ’cause you buckle in and you try to wrench down, get going, get gone. Fortunately I was able to do that. Sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you get passed and you lose ‘em late in the going. That would have been ultimately frustrating. Somehow I got back on the horse and rode it home.”
Carl Edwards said he still owes Kyle Busch one from Phoenix, so keep an eye on those two. But Busch doesn’t know what all the fuss is about.
“I have no idea what I’m owed from, so you’ll have to ask Carl,” said Kyle, who seemingly had no memory of a previous run-in. “Normally when it’s against you, you’ll always remember it forever. I don’t remember what I did that made him mad.”
“Carl says what Carl says. I don’t know. Apparently I have one coming. When and where it comes I do not know. I would say the same thing if I owed somebody else something, that I still owed him. When and where it comes is more to you than the other guy, so…”
Dale Earnhardt Jr proved the No. 88 team can make improvements and advance during the race. After starting 22nd Earnhardt managed an 11tth place finish and was visibly upset that he didn’t get a top ten, citing a late race pit road speeding penalty. Maybe the Dale Jr era isn’t over after all.
What does Dale Jr attribute it to? “It is hard to really point to and put a finger on it right now, “according to Dale Jr. “He just does a good job of keeping me calm and keeping me focused on trying to do good,” said Earnhardt of his new crew chief Steve Letarte.
Here’s your chance to vent, rant or cheer. What do you think about Kyle’s win, the feud with Carl or Dale Earnhardt Jr’s improving fortunes this year.