Did You Notice? … Kyle Busch‘s problem with NASCAR’s “Boys, have at it” rule? It’s certainly not the sport itself. Thrilled with the national publicity caused by Sunday’s scuffle, they’re leaning towards no penalty for Busch. Officials are happy that a spontaneous show of emotion overshadowed a ho-hum race and breathed life into the sport.
Problem is, they don’t pay Busch’s check. That comes from Joe Gibbs Racing and, more specifically, primary sponsor M&M’s.
The candy company, which markets to young children, has a wholesome image consumed by family-friendly commercials. Since when do you see the Green M&M emerge bloodied and bitchy, complaining about what the yellow Skittles said to him Friday night? Their marketing strategy is fun, positive, G-Rated and geared toward all ages.
That’s a direct conflict with what Busch did Sunday, more WWE than wholesome Disney. It’s perfect for the branding of Monster Energy, NASCAR’s new title sponsor, which is more associated with extreme sports and more aggressive personalities. (Brother Kurt is a perfect fit.) But M&M Mars? That’s simply not a match.
“The recent actions by Kyle Busch are not consistent with the values of Mars Chocolate North America,” the company said in a statement given Monday to FOX Sports. “While we are disappointed with the situation, we hope the drivers and team members involved learn from this experience and continue to grow as professional athletes representing the sport.”
It’s one thing for a company to publicly admonish their driver. It’s another one altogether to put their money where their mouth is. Don’t forget, during the last two races of 2011 M&M’s pulled funding from JGR after Busch had a public, disturbing on-track incident with Ron Hornaday during a Truck Series race in Texas.
NASCAR, during this new Monster era, wants to pull in Millennials by showing that it’s pulled back the reins a bit. It’s clear that Busch, who’s off to a sluggish start this season and has a past history of temperamental behavior, is one of their best shots to make the national highlight reels. A tell-it-like-it-is Busch, whether he’s bashing Goodyear or trying to bash Logano’s head in, becomes can’t miss television no matter what side you’re on.
But entertainment value turns destructive for JGR if they simply can’t afford the perception of bad behavior. This team already has enough sponsor problems with the No. 20 car, trying to replace Dollar General; they can’t afford a second multi-million dollar departure, not in this NASCAR economic environment.
It’s why I expect Busch to play a little nicer from here on out. Not because he wants to; corporate America says he has to. It’s as simple as that.
Did You Notice? … Joey Logano‘s problem with NASCAR’s “Boys, have at it” rule? It’s not that Logano did anything wrong physically; he’s less likely than Busch to receive a penalty for Sunday’s fracas.
It’s that Logano didn’t physically participate.
Let’s explain. Logano has a history of being protected, not just by his crew in these incidents but by father Tom. Remember the Harvick-Logano incident way back in 2010? It was father Tom, not Joey taking the front lines in a confrontation with Harvick.
At the time, Joey was just 20 years old, a young adult still trying to make his way in NASCAR. But that perception of protection within the sport’s fan base has dogged him, carrying over to his current ride at Team Penske several years later.
That’s not to say Logano’s crew shouldn’t have jumped in to protect their driver. Of course you’re not going to sit around when a rival throws punches at your guy and you’re standing five feet away.
But the second they jumped in? The crew added to this narrative, right or wrong, that other people get to fight Joey’s battles for him. As one of the leaders of the sport’s next generation, he’s the poster child of an era in which money and branding count just as much as talent. Logano, then, can be a divisive figure amongst the fan base. This fracas further fractured just how people feel about the guy.
Consider the list of veterans Logano has tangled with through the years. You have Denny Hamlin at Fontana, a last-lap wreck that left Hamlin out for weeks. There’s Harvick, recently-retired Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle whose arguments all centered around the same theme: respect. It was that lack of respect Matt Kenseth felt Logano showed him two years ago that caused the infamous dump at Martinsville, a payback that cost Kenseth dearly and is one of the biggest controversies the sport has dealt with in the Chase era.
So while Logano may emerge unscathed, without a physical scratch you wonder if the same is true for his garage reputation. Does he even want to change it? Teammate Brad Keselowski is a role model for being your own man, doing what you think is right and letting the haters, well, hate.
Busch is such a controversial figure in his own right that maybe Logano will think it doesn’t matter. But ruffling so many feathers throughout so many years heightens the risk to him on the racetrack going forward.
Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off…
- It’s been a long time since the 5/24 shop at Hendrick Motorsports appears to be light years ahead of the 48/88. Three races in, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have no top-10 finishes while Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott have four. Kahne in particular looks like he’s found his groove after a slump that’s extended across several years.
- Elliott and Kyle Larson have spent the first three races oh, so close. As we may have seen with Elliott a few weeks ago, how much will “not getting over the hump” get to them?
- Three races, three wrecks for rookie Corey Lajoie with BK Racing. It’s hard to remember a rougher start for a rookie.
- Kevin Harvick and Phoenix. Three straight victories in the spring race. With more laps led this year than anyone else (352), why wouldn’t it be four for four this weekend? And will fans who know that dominance, and understand it, even bother to tune in with the NCAA Tournament as stiff competition?
About the author
The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.
You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.
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Hmmm, that narrative again…What I saw was Logano once confronted with little fists of fury by HIS FRIEND, did react and was quickly man handled by a white shirt beefalo, and was held (yes comically so) all of the few seconds of the now FAUX HISTORICAL.Thrilla in Las Vegas…By desperate people wanting to make more of it than what is was! It was racing!!! Damn, cause they sure can’t talk about racing…it sucks! Give me a break! That is what I saw, if another video surfaces please inform me, I will be happy to take a glance!
And for the record Danny, you look like your biggest “fight” or “confrontation” in life is you growing g a pair and tapping the clown in front of you at Starbucks to KINDLY let him know, he cut in front of you! Jesus…
Did you notice?
Joey wasnt “protected”.. He swung more than Busch and was right in the middle of the fight until he was pulled off by an official. Give me a break lol
I don’t know, Joey seemed ready to throw down with Kyle Sunday. His crew just pulled him away. It’s just the natural reaction of crew guys to jump into the fight. They often throwdown more than the drivers when tempers flare.
Did you notice? Denny Hamlin and crew standing right behind the fracas and not lifting one finger to help! Did you notice? The amount of media attention is paid to this all in the effort to jump start interest in the start to this lackluster season of racing. I’ve seen two old ladies swinging purses and fighting over the last motorized shopping cart at Walmart more vicious than this fight was. Jeez!
Lol….too funny and true!
Personally, I’m on the fence as to how to handle this. People complain because the drivers don’t show any emotion but when someone does, they are all over him. So as far as Busch showing emotion, I think its great. I do not however, condone walking up to someone and sucker punching them because of what happened on the race track. I really don’t think this is what Nascar had in mind with boys have at it. I knew Nascar would do nothing because of all the attention its getting and because of who did it (if David Regan did this he would be suspended forever), but at what point do you draw the line. By not penalizing Busch, they essentially are saying its ok to sucker punch someone after the race since Kyle did it and got away with it. That’s not in the best interest of the sport. The sport is already a joke to alot of people and it has lost a ton of fans due to gimmicks. Turning it into more of a circus than it already is isn’t going to help matters