Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Kyle Busch draws criticism for 128 on the highway, Joe Gibbs ponders discipline; Brad Keselowski wins 600 pole, but watch out for Fords

  NASCAR's new Mr. Excitement? Brad Keselowski, on the pole for the Coke 600, has been getting stronger and stronger this spring (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   While Kyle Busch was busy Thursday afternoon dealing with the fallout from his 128 mph speeding ticket Tuesday, Tony Stewart, Kimi Raikkonen and Robby Gordon were busy making their own headlines.
   And then so did Brad Keselowski, winning the pole for Sunday's Coke 600...in sharp contrast to teammate Kurt Busch's much slower run, only 25th fastest. Keselowski clocked in at 192.089 mph.
    But ominously Carl Edwards, Saturday night's All-Star winner, will start third, and rivals are pointing at Ford's new FR9 engine as amazingly strong. According to one report, Edwards' All-Star engine broke NASCAR's in-house dyno records for horsepower. And anyone looking for confirmation need only check out Ricky Stenhouse's qualifying run, ninth -- in his Cup debut, subbing for Trevor Bayne in the Woods' Ford.
   --  Word on the street is that Stewart, who has struggled through the spring with a series of mediocre runs – though he dominated Las Vegas, until late in the race – is talking with veteran crew chief Greg Zipadelli about teaming up again.

   Stewart and Zipadelli together won two Cup championships and 33 races when teamed at Joe Gibbs'. Stewart's first season as his own boss, 2009, he and crew chief Darian Grubb won four races and challenged for the title, and last season they won Atlanta and California. This year though Stewart has seemed stuck in second gear, all but uncompetitive.
   When asked about any possible talks with Stewart, Zipadelli – who is in his third season with Joey Logano at Gibbs' – wouldn't offer much in response here Thursday: "Sometimes it's better not to say anything," Zipadelli said cryptically. Logano and Zipadelli won a rain-shortened race at Loudon, N.H., their first year together, but they've been dogged by bad luck lately.


  Veteran crew chief Greg Zipadelli: an offer from old buddy Tony Stewart to put the band back together again? No one is saying much on the record. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   -- Robby Gordon says he'd love to have Raikkonen, the F1 star, in one of his cars at Sonoma in July and Watkins Glen in August. Raikkonen tested Tuesday at Virginia International Raceway in the car Gordon nearly won Sonoma with last summer; however Raikkonen only got in 12 laps before running off the course, hitting a storm drain – a la Carl Edwards – and wiping out the front-end.
   Raikkonen is listed as the highest paid sports figure of all time – for his three-year Ferrari contract 2007-2009 which paid him a whopping $51 million a season.
  "We like Kimi," Gordon says. "We'd love to run him at Sonoma in a Dodge.
    "He's a talented driver. Now stock car racing is a little more difficult…but the plan all along was to run him in the two road races.
   "However 12 laps isn't enough to evaluate him. He was going to drive by himself Tuesday and I would join him Wednesday and we'd work together. But now we've got a torn up race car, with X-amount of damages."


Robby Gordon: Will F1 champ Kimi Raikkonen be his new teammate? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   A possible complicating factor is that Raikkonen is a Toyota driver at the moment, under Red Bull sponsorship. What that might mean for NASCAR's Red Bull team is unclear; last summer that team put Mattias Ekstrom in its car, and Ekstrom, though with little NASCAR experience, had a shot to win until getting spun by Brad Keselowski late. Ekstrom, the team says, won't be in that car this summer. Brian Vickers, sidelines for that race last season, won the pole at Sonoma in 2009, and current teammate Kasey Kahne won Sonoma that year driving for Richard Petty.
    Meanwhile, Busch apologized profusely for his speeding incident, which raised again the issue of NASCAR drivers on the road – Richard Petty, for that 1996 bump-and-run, AJ Allmendinger and Scott Wimmer for DWIs, in 2009 and 2004 respectively, and others for speeding on the open highway…and the late Robbie Moroso, killed in a road crash in 1990 not far from where Busch was caught.
   "I'm certainly sorry for my actions and for my lack of judgment," Busch said. "This is something that I can take and learn from, and hopefully move forward and not let happen again."


  Kyle Busch: in deep trouble? "Serious," says team owner Joe Gibbs. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  NASCAR officials said they had no plans to penalize Busch for the incident, even though NASCAR had put both Allmendinger and Wimmer on probation for their open-highway incidents. Busch is currently on probation for his Darlington Raceway run-in with Kevin Harvick; and just what NASCAR might be able or willing to do in penalizing Busch any further is unclear.
    Team owner Joe Gibbs has talked with Busch about the situation. "We have certainly discussed some things, and we're working through the process of
 that now and looking at what might be done later on down the road," Busch said.
   Gibbs called the speeding ticket "a serious issue.
   "So we want to go through this the right way. And there's a lot to consider."
   Gibbs said he himself may discipline Busch.
   "I reflect back on the last year for Kyle himself – there's been some tough issues he's had to handle….and I thought he did a real good job of it," Gibbs said. "I think he's matured a lot.
   "The way he handled things last year, I felt he's really made a great effort.
   "So I'm hoping that somehow something positive will come out of it. It may be (through) different organizations that reach out to young people driving…"
    Gibbs pointed to the 2008 highway deaths of drag racer Doug Herbert's two sons in the Lake Norman area.
    Gibbs, unlike fellow team owner Rick Hendrick, has had to deal with a number of controversial racers during his time in the sport, and Gibbs is sometimes criticized for not exerting more control over his drivers.
   (Ironically perhaps, it appears that the exotic Lexus sports car Busch was caught in was from a Hendrick dealership. http://bit.ly/kFgJBV )


   Trevor Bayne (L, with Dale Earnhardt Jr.) still doesn't know much about the mysterious illness that has sidelined the Daytona 500 winner for more than a month. But he says he'll be back at the wheel next week at Kansas in the Nationwide race (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   While several drivers tried to avoid making any clear statement on the Busch situation, older brother Kurt, who has had his own highway incidents, was upfront:  "I was 26-years old when I got put through my big episode, and it definitely changes the way that you look at things.  There's a responsibility that all of us have.
    "Talking with Kyle about it, I feel he definitely understands the mistake he made, and that speed is supposed to be saved for here at the track. 
    "All of us drivers have a responsibility as role models to what we can teach our youth on the roadways.  There are posted speed limits and rules and laws.
    "He has his court date, and things will be ironed out.  He'll learn from the situation and be a better person from it." 
     But then maybe many of these drivers are thinking about similar incidents they might have been involved in. Dale Earnhardt Jr. conceded "Sometimes you go a little fast, even away from the race track, I guess. I've been guilty of the same thing myself…just been lucky enough not to get caught."

Crew chief Rick Ren (R) showing Formula One star Kimi Raikkonen some NASCAR tricks (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   Kyle Busch, when pressed on the 128 he was clocked at on a road near Troutman, N.C., repeated his mea culpa: "I'm certainly sorry that it happened and my actions led me to speed. 
    "It was a lack of judgment, and all I can do is apologize to the public, my friends, my fans, my sponsors and everybody, look at this experience as a learning experience, and move forward."
    Did Busch get preferential treatment from the police in the case? The Iredell County sheriff's department says no.
    However Busch's speeding has not set well with much of the public.
    Busch, already a controversial figure, is braced for more fallout: "It's certainly challenging sometimes, with things you have to think about, and actions that you may cause yourself," Busch said contritely. "Thankfully I've got some good people around me that can help me through these experiences and help me learn from them.  
    "Take the good from it and take the bad from it, and apply that later on down the road."
    What happens next in the courts, and Busch has a July 20th court date, is unclear. Some anticipate a series of continuances and then a judgment for, say, 120 hours of community service.
    However, the civil penalties could be more serious.
    "I'm not the jurisdiction to make a case; I leave that to the court systems," Busch says.
    "This matter will be handled as best as we can handle it, and as best as the authorities decide to handle it. 
     "I have the utmost respect for the authorities across the United States of America that try to keep all of us safe every day."



    Zahra Baker, above the window of Kyle Busch's Truck (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

     Busch, who is one of this sport's hottest stars, and a big winner this season, won Friday night's Truck race in a dramatic late charge. On his Truck's quarterpanel was a tribute to Zahra Baker, the 10-year-old Hickory, N.C., girl who was brutally murdered.
    Also in that Truck race was Raikkonen, making his NASCAR debut, and a rather successful one at that. So much so that the F1 world champion is set to run this weekend's Nationwide race here, and says he would like to run the Cup race at Sonoma next month.
    Raikkonen ran a Busch Truck here, part of what Busch had originally described as the first leg of a five-race deal.
    Now though Busch says Saturday's race will end his relationship with Raikkonen.
    "I thought Kimi did a nice job," Busch says. "Certainly he gave the Truck a good ride.  It was really loose, and he did a nice job with car control.
    "As far as the Sonoma (Cup) race, we've had no discussions about Cup stuff at all.  As far as I know, this weekend is the last hurrah with Kimi, unless he comes back and wants to do further races in NASCAR."
    So what's changed? Busch said money, without much more clarification.



Team owner Joe Gibbs: Again, one of his drivers is in the dog house, this time Kyle Busch for speeding on the highway (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


I don't approve of what Kyle

I don't approve of what Kyle Busch did. However...I would rather share the highway with him at 125+ in that Lexus sportscar than share the road with many of the senior drivers out there doing 65 mph in their old Buick.

the issue of NASCAR drivers

the issue of NASCAR drivers on the road
Let's not forget about Michael Waltrip running his SUV off the road, walking home in his socks, then reporting the incident to authorities 12 hours after the fact.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com