2007 Ride: No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
2007 Primary Sponsor: Kellogg’s
2007 Owner: Rick Hendrick
2007 Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson
2007 Stats: 36 starts, 1 win, 11 top fives, 20 top 10s, 637 laps led, fifth in points
High Point: Looking at his laps-led total, it would seem that Busch might have won a bunch of races this season. In fact, he only won one, the spring contest at Bristol, after Jeff Burton chose not to nudge him out of the way en route to the checkered flag. That same weekend, Busch led 89 laps during the Busch Series event en route to a third-place finish. Actually, early this season it seemed that Busch might win every race in both series – but it was not to be. His pit crew gave some wins away, Busch’s erratic temperament cost him other wins, and in a few instances he was just flat out outdriven.
It all came together for Busch at Bristol; but even then, it didn’t take long for things to all fall apart. After the win, Busch made his infamous comments about the Car of Tomorrow in its inaugural race, saying rather succinctly, it “sucked.” His comments were honest but ill-considered, and NASCAR officials made sure that Busch paid for them with a series of questionable calls later in the year. Who would have guessed senior officials of the sanctioning body were vindictive sons of bitches? Well, apparently everyone but Busch.
Low Point: When he was good, Busch was very, very, good; but when he was bad, Kyle was vile. Despite posting stats that would have made up a career year for most journeymen drivers and up and comers, Busch found himself in the odd position of losing his ride with the hottest team on the circuit. Rick Hendrick initially said there was no room at the inn for Dale Earnhardt Jr., but Busch’s erratic temperament and bad-tempered outbursts led him to reconsider the situation.
Busch tried to paint a brave face on things at first, but it became painfully obvious how enraged he was at his firing as the season wore on. His tantrums came to a head by July, with Busch vowing he was never going to help any of his soon to be ex-teammates and was only out for himself. Yeah, who’d have guessed that?
Summary: There is no doubt that week in and week out, Busch is a major talent on the track. There is equally no doubt that he is his own worst enemy, a rolling cannon on the high seas with unerring aim at his own feet. Talent can carry a driver only so far in the high-profile landscape that is the politically correct Cup series these days.
Unfortunately, nothing late in the season seemed to indicate that the younger Busch brother had gotten the message when Rick Hendrick decided to cut his ties with this young man. Tony Stewart can get away with the bad-tempered punk routine; but then, Stewart has won a bunch of races and a pair of titles. Busch is talking the talk but not walking the walk, and every time he wrecks himself out of a race because he’s angry, his stock drops in the eyes of his competitors and other team owners.
Busch needs to grow up – and now – or find a new profession. His equally erratic brother has found the maturity to back it down a few notches while still talking straight; Kyle would be wise to do the same.
2008 Outlook: The good news for Busch is despite his antics, he landed on his feet with a top quality team at Joe Gibbs Racing. The potentially bad news, though, is that Gibbs also decided to throw in his lot with the Toyota boys starting next season. Either Gibbs knows something the pundits don’t, or this is a high-risk maneuver. As the Gibbs teams’ fortunes go, so shall Busch’s; and if he hops out of a self-destructed competitive car and lets the world know that Toyotas “suck,” he may just find himself unemployed.
The 2008 season is a crossroads for Busch; he either proves himself a championship-contending driver who thinks before he speaks, or he proves to the world he’s just a bad-tempered punk who could have been a contender.
2006 Frontstretch Grade: B
2007 Grade: B-
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