We’ve been waiting a long time for the new Kyle Busch.
You know the one I’m talking about: the guy that plows through adversity because his maturity matches his talent. It’s the new Kyle Busch that is going to realize his potential, pile up Sprint Cup wins and score championships with ease.
Unfortunately, he’s a fictional character. Every once in awhile, like the Loch Ness Monster, someone thinks they’ve spotted the new Kyle Busch, but they can’t be certain and his existence still hasn’t been proven.
Sporting News writer Bob Pockrass thought he saw the new Kyle Busch during the Chase last year. In a September 2013 article, Pockrass referred to a more relaxed Busch, someone who had seemingly had that what-the-hell-have-I-been-doing epiphany. Pockrass claimed that the new Kyle Busch smiled and seemed at peace.
It turned out to be a fake sighting. Don’t blame Pockrass; he wasn’t the first and won’t be the last to say they’ve spotted the new Kyle Busch. He’s a tricky species; maybe those folks from Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot can help because we’ve got a very similar situation. Since Busch entered the Cup Series full-time, in 2005 reports have surfaced all over the Internet from people claiming to have spotted the new Kyle Busch.
Ten seasons in, however, its existence remains a mystery. Busch is no longer the teenage prodigy Rick Hendrick plucked from the local short tracks. He’s a 29-year-old NASCAR veteran. Busch’s immaturity was apparent when he entered Cup full-time at age 20, but maturity and decision-making aren’t strengths of most 20-year-olds. So we waited and we waited some more for Busch to transform into the new Kyle Busch, like a caterpillar would turn into a butterfly.
In 2008, when Busch arrived at Joe Gibbs Racing, realizing his infinite potential seemed possible. He won eight races, before an unexpected Chase collapse and while he wasn’t ready to compete with Jimmie Johnson for a championship, we thought, maybe next year. The guy that’s capable of dominating to that degree has to win a championship at some point, right?
But six years have passed since Busch won those eight races, and he hasn’t even come close to winning a title. He won’t this year, either. It isn’t because he doesn’t have a Hendrick motor (although he’d like for you to believe that’s why) or the car to do it. He won’t win because of himself. Approaching age 30, Busch still remains his own nemesis.
That’s been evident all summer, but especially showed Saturday night at Bristol. He took the lead from Jeff Gordon before the competition caution, only to speed down pit road on the first round of pit stops. He sped through the first timing line like it was a reporter seeking a post-race interview. Classic Busch. As a result, he started from the rear of the field, got caught up in someone else’s accident and spent the rest of the race driving an ill-handling piece of junk as the field continuously looped him on the outside.
Call it bad luck if you want, but Busch’s own carelessness put him in that precarious position back in the pack. I predicted in my article last week that he was getting ready to dive off the deep end; I just expected his rage to be directed at another driver. I never could’ve predicted multiple verbal sparring matches with crew chief Dave Rogers.
“You didn’t fix the problem,” Busch shouted over the radio. “The suspension is broke. I need a whole new right-front suspension. I will be behind the wall in about two f**king laps.”
Rogers responded: “Park it behind the truck and take your whiny little ass to the bus.”
I assume Rogers was talking about the school bus; hopefully, there was a chaperone waiting for Busch there.
Rogers and Joe Gibbs downplayed the situation afterward, like usual, but it really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. Entering Bristol, Kyle was like the kid who ate Pixy Stix for breakfast, Smarties for lunch, then M&Ms for dinner – and now he’s not being cooperative.
The writing’s been on the wall all summer. After a second-place finish at Indianapolis, he looked like a kid whose puppy just died in the post-race interview. Then, he lost an engine at Pocono. After Marcos Ambrose beat him in the Nationwide race at Watkins Glen, Busch complained that Ambrose was racing with nothing to lose, like he was an insane person just released from the asylum. (God forbid he go anywhere near him.) A day later, after a poor qualifying effort Busch tried to pass Martin Truex, Jr. in the middle of the carousel — a passing zone only when the guy in front of you flies off the track. When Truex didn’t run off, letting Busch by, Busch intentionally ran into the No. 78 car in the next right-hander. Too bad Busch got the worst of the damage, forced to go behind the wall at a race he won the previous year. Then, at Michigan, he was the first wreck.
Saturday night marked the fourth straight run of 36th or worse, a slump that’s sagged him to 17th in points. So if it wasn’t Rogers at Bristol, Busch could’ve unleashed his fury on anyone – Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Dale Jarrett, the guy in the Goodyear Blimp? Who knows?
Is Busch lacking horsepower? Yes, definitely. But he’s not alone.
Maybe he should strap into one of the BK Racing cars for a couple of weeks. It’ll be like one of those Beyond Scared Straight situations. He’ll crawl back to Gibbs kissing the shop floor. Even with a subpar engine, he drives some of the best equipment on the circuit. Matt Kenseth drives it too, and he isn’t 17th in points like Busch, but fifth. He has so many points that despite not having a win, he could not show up for the next two races and still get in the playoffs.
“You look at what you did wrong,” Busch told Pockrass last year. “You try not to repeat those same mistakes and continue to build in what you’ve done this year because this year is entirely different than years past.
“(In past Chases), there were times that something happened to the car. And there were certain times where maybe the car wasn’t perfect and I get frustrated and I make the situation worse.”
Come 2014, nothing has changed. Busch said that in 2013, claiming to be the new Kyle Busch. That was two years after getting suspended for a race, and a year after melting down and missing the Chase.
Rogers admitted last year to Pockrass that in the last couple of years, “I got to a point where I was tired of hearing of the new Kyle.”
We’re tired too, Dave. The new Kyle Busch isn’t here and isn’t walking through that door anytime soon.
Until he does, we’ll just keep waiting.