Kyle Busch is one of those drivers you either love or you hate.
It’s no secret he has more than a few enemies in the garage thanks in large part to his infinity for using his bumper to get around a competitor. Also not helping matters both with fans and drivers alike is the brash manner in which he carries himself both on and off the track. Fair or not, the popular belief of the immensely talented 26-year-old driver is that of a cocky, snot-nose punk who someone needs to teach a lesson to.
Enter Professor Richard Childress. The owner of six Sprint Cup championships who had grown sick of fixing wrecked cars and trucks bearing his name courtesy of Mr. Busch.
When a prior direct warning from Childress to Busch went unheeded and in last Saturday’s Truck Series race at Kansas, Busch drove into the side of the Richard Childress Racing truck driven by Joey Coulter, the former owner-driver who built his vast empire from nothing, had reached his boiling point.
Childress deliberately and calculatingly sought Busch out and meted out a punishment he deemed worthy of the crime(s). No different than the Old West vigilante justice that used to be commonplace in NASCAR. Except this time around there were no tire irons or pistols involved. Just fists, nothing more.
The problem is no matter how much Busch may or may not have deserved the beating he got, and make no mistake in my opinion he got his comeuppance, Childress wasn’t the one who should have delved out the penalty.
It’s taken us a long time to get here, but NASCAR has evolved to the point where you can’t have car owners fighting drivers, no matter how in the right they may be.
Outside of WWE, where Vince McMahon regularly put the boots to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, there is no sport where this type of behavior would be permitted.
Which is why despite public sentiment firmly in his corner, NASCAR had no choice but to dole out a $150,000 fine to the legendary car owner.
Though there are those who disagree on both sides, this was a perfectly acceptable penalty the sanctioning body handed down yesterday. The monetary sum is steep enough where it will discourage this kind of behavior from continuing. $150,000 is nothing to sneeze at, as it is easily one of the largest fines in NASCAR’s history non-performance related.
More importantly, NASCAR didn’t come across as heavy-handed when they decided not to suspend Childress for any length of time. The powers that be understood the circumstances leading to Saturday’s confrontation, as well as the fact that the offender in question doesn’t have a reputation as a troublemaker.
Also, in the “boy’s have at it” era where raw emotion is supposed to be celebrated and not condemned, a suspension would be perceived as hypocritical. You and I both know that if this incident would have been caught on tape, NASCAR and its television partners would have replayed the skirmish ad nauseum in an effort to promote the no-holds barred attitude they want NASCAR to be conveyed as having.
If anything is to come out of this, it’s that Busch has learned that eventually you’re going to have to pay the piper for your actions. And sometimes the piper may be disguised as a 65-year-old man who tells his grandson to hold his watch before administrating a beating worthy of the UFC octagon.
For Childress it sends a loud and clear message to not only Busch but the whole garage that his Richard Childress Racing organization isn’t to be messed with. I guarantee you drivers will have second thoughts next time they decide to rough up a Childress owned car.
If all it took was cutting a check for $150k to get that message across, it will be a check Childress will write with a broad smile. After all, there’s a reason the statement he released yesterday didn’t include the words “sorry” or “apologize.”
Childress knew what he was doing, is accepting his punishment without appeal, and is ready to move on and we should do the same.
Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media/Getty Images