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Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs: What's next? Hey, a Truck ride for Ron?

 Kyle Busch (R) listens to team owner Joe Gibbs (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   Love him or hate him, Kyle Busch knows how to attract a crowd, and knows to excite emotions...for better or worse.
   Busch and Joe Gibbs did the expected mea culpa apologies Friday morning at Phoenix International Raceway, in an extended press conference addressing the fallout from last weekend's crash with Ron Hornaday in the NASCAR Truck race at Texas.
   Busch says he's talked several times this week with Hornaday about the situation, and said they're both cool with it all now: "I can still come over to the house and crash on the couch if need be," Busch says.

   And Kevin Harvick, who made clear again he still isn't a Kyle Busch fan, revealed that Busch has offered Hornaday a full-time Truck series ride next season with his own Toyota team. Hornaday this season is driving for Chevy's Harvick, but Harvick announced in September he would be shutting down that operation at the end of the season.
    And Hornaday still has no job lined up for 2012. So for Hornaday – a four-time Truck champion, and winner of two of the series' last four titles – the run-in with Busch could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. And for Busch, the opportunity to sign Hornaday would certainly be a good one. The two are very similar drivers, tough, hard, and winners.

   Pensive Kyle Busch (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Busch, clearly chastened by the NASCAR penalties and reactions, concedes "this has been quite a trying week for myself and my wife (Samantha), and everybody
    "I'm utmost apologetic to everybody. There's no one to blame but myself."
    Now Busch says "We want to move on.  
   "There's an opportunity for me to become a better person, to grow and learn from this.
    "I'm sure I've lost respect with my team, my sponsors, my peers, and I understand those consequences.  I understand my actions were uncalled for, disrespectful. And I'm here to make sure I can continue on in a positive manner and make it where everybody believes in me."
    Busch says he doesn't plan to change his driving style, only his reaction to frustration: "There are more behavioral issues than competitive issues."
    The reaction to the Busch-Hornaday run-in has run the gamut, with many fans decrying Busch as still immature, others sticking behind him. But that's the way it's been for the Las Vegas native since his early days in the sport.
   "There have been a lot of upset people, and that's to be understood,"  Busch says. "But it's certainly to learn from, to understand, to grow…and to move on."

     The Texas incident: under caution, after an earlier run-in, Kyle Busch (18) put Ron Hornaday in the wall. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   While NASCAR's penalties – 'parking' him last weekend – were severe (only three others the past many years have been so penalized), the harshness of the penalties have  been questioned, particularly in light of NASCAR's 'no-call' at Atlanta last year in a much more serious incident involving Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
   And the question could be asked – at this point in time – how badly does the sport of NASCAR racing really need Kyle Busch? In this sports world of increasingly plain vanilla drivers, Busch stands out as a racer who excites emotions, on both sides.
   But Busch and Gibbs here, publically at least, were contrite about it all.
   "I wasn't surprised at NASCAR's reaction," Busch said.  "It was a decision they needed to make, and I respect that decision, and I took the consequences…and we're still dealing with them. And we'll still deal with them for a while."  
    Busch's crew, though, Busch says are the guys he needs to really apologize to: "All of these guys at Joe Gibbs Racing that had nothing to do with Friday night I feel a tremendous amount of remorse for.  I've got to gain their respect back."
    And there was speculation that Gibbs might simply fire Busch, as too hot to deal with. Rival owner Rick Hendrick essentially did that himself four years ago, when Busch was already a proven winner in the Cup division.
   Gibbs indicated that firing Busch could have been an option.

   And  Busch himself admitted "Was there a point in which I thought 'Do I have a ride?'  Of course there was.  I thought that.  
    "Was there a point Joe told me 'Hey, we're looking at terminating this?'  No. Joe has stuck by my side and has held my arm through this whole deal.
    "I certainly was not smart in my actions Friday night, and I get that. The decision needs to be different come next time around in the heat of the moment.  
    When you're that close to fire, are you just going to stay warm or are you going to get burned by it? I definitely got burned by my own fire."

 Ron Hornaday (L) talks with team owner Kevin Harvick (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Hornaday has come out in support of Busch, in fact.
    "I have had conversations with Ron, within a day or two of the incident, a conversation that ended well," Busch said.

    Gibbs, who has been criticized over the years for being perhaps too lenient with the men who work for him, be they football players or NASCAR drivers, seemed rather shaken by the fallout to this controversy.
   "Kyle's penalties are going to be substantial," Gibbs said.
    "The actions last week don't reflect Mars' values.  As a consequence, they've asked Kyle not to drive the M&M's car the two races this year (Phoenix and Miami)."
   However, and this is a seemingly strange twist, Gibbs says Busch will be back in the Mars' sponsored cars in 2012. "We're all set and plan to have a long future in racing," Gibbs says.
   But Busch may be on a much shorter leash.
   "We also have other actions that are going to be in place…other financial penalties and stuff we're working through," Gibbs said, declining to be specific.
    "When you're put in a situation like this, you really can make one of two decisions.  
    "One (firing Busch) would have been devastating, and I think really discouraging for everybody associated with Kyle, everybody around him and for the sport.  
    "What I've chosen to do, I want to support Kyle. And I feel this could have a positive impact on Kyle.
    "I'm committed to him as a person.  I like him; we've gone through a lot together. We're looking forward to a long relationship.  
   "We spent last year going through some things, and Kyle has really stepped up and matured in a lot of ways."
   Harvick may not want to sympathize with Busch – after all it was Harvick's Truck that Busch destroyed at Texas, and a possible Harvick-Hornaday championship that Busch derailed – but Harvick can certainly empathize.
   "When I went through that situation," Harvick said, reflecting on his own early-career problems, "I had two drivers in the whole sport -- Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace. Those were the only two guys who reached out and said 'I've been there before, and here's what you need to do, and you need to move on.'
   "But it's a game-changer as far as how you look at the sport and how you feel about things.
   "The bottom line is when you're in competition, you're going to do things that you'll look back on and say 'Man, that was pretty bad there. I shouldn't have done that,' or 'I should have done this a different way.'
   "The one thing we try to do is when we make a mistake, you try not to do it twice. You try to learn from that, and you try to move on.
   "This sport is a lot like life. You hopefully learn from your mistakes, and you get older, and you mature.
   "It's a tough sport.
    "And the hardest part about this sport is not NASCAR, it's not your sponsors. It's really the competitors -- because they look at it as a disrespect to the sport that they've been a part of building for a long time. The hardest part is to come back and be able to look everybody in the eye and them believe that you actually respect the sport."

     Kyle Busch: at least the guy generates emotion in the NASCAR fanbase (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Damn Mike!!! I was hoping

Damn Mike!!!
I was hoping Mars would force JGR to either fire Kyle Busch and/or move on to another team like Roush, SHR, RCR and bring on David Reutimann as the driver.

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