Kyle Busch still stewing over Kansas
FONTANA, Calif. -- Five days after the fact, Kyle Busch remains an angry young man.
He stood behind his hauler Friday morning with the look of a guy who needed to get a few things off his chest, which he did.
When asked if he was still mad about getting intentionally wrecked by David Reutimann last weekend at Kansas Speedway, Busch didn't hesitate:
"Uh, yeah," he said. "It cost me 60 points.
"We've got way too much catching up to do now as opposed to where we could have been. If I give myself a fifth-place finish [at Kansas], which is where we could have been, we'd be second or third in points right now, 20 points out of the lead. I feel that's legitimately where we could be."
Busch is seventh in the Chase standings, 80 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson entering Sunday's Pepsi 400 at Auto Club Speedway.
A "have at it, boys" moment in retaliation by Reutimann damaged Busch's No. 18 Toyota and led to a 21st-place finish at Kansas. The incident happened after Busch ran into the back of Reutimann's No. 00 Toyota earlier in the race.
Reutimann felt he was wronged, so he made a plan to get even, in his eyes. A noncontender in the Chase deliberately wrecked a Chase contender, which could affect the outcome of the championship, but no penalty was issued.
"It can happen again,'' Jeff Burton said Friday. "That won't be the last time it happens."
Is that OK? Chasers don't deserve special treatment, but has "have at it" gone too far?
"It's all up to NASCAR," Busch said. "They're the godfather of this deal. Whatever they want to do and say is what we're going to do."
And Busch said he feels NASCAR didn't do enough at Kansas to keep the payback moment from happening.
"In this instance in which everyone knew payback was coming, I think it is kind of dumb to let it happen," Busch said. "Before he ran into me off Turn 2, he brake-checked me getting into Turn 1, so I had an idea what was coming.
"But I thought, 'This would be really dumb if it did happen.' And it did. It makes us look like idiots."
Busch said he feels NASCAR should have stepped in. "Call a warning over the radio and say, '00, don't do anything,'" Busch said.
As of Friday morning, Busch had not spoken to Reutimann or NASCAR officials about the incident. He said he hadn't looked at a replay of what happened.
"What's there to review?" he asked. "I lived it."
Most fans have sided with Reutimann on this one, believing Busch got what was coming to him.
"Because of the negative image I have, everyone thinks it's the best thing in the world," Busch said. "But as far as changing what I'm supposed to do, I guess I shouldn't be cutting it as close. I'll just leave 50 feet between everybody."
Right. That's Busch's way of saying racing more conservatively is not a realistic option.
He said he feels there was a big difference Sunday between what he did to Reutimann and what Reutimann did to him.
"I don't know how you can change your closing rate on a guy," Busch said. "I got in the corner and [Reutimann] got loose. His car stepped out, and I was off the gas at a point where I would have been on the gas exiting. But I was off the gas waiting and got into him."
Burton confirmed Busch's account of the contact with Reutimann.
"Kyle didn't get into David intentionally," Burton said. "I heard him lift off the gas. But when you're trying to pass somebody and they get loose, you can hit them.
"David's reaction was swift and harsh. Whether it was too harsh is for them to decide. David felt he had no other recourse. He needed to take something away from Kyle."
And he did, possibly taking away the 2010 Cup title.
"What happened between them Sunday didn't start Sunday," Burton said.
They didn't have an on-track incident prior to Kansas, but Reutimann criticized Busch earlier this year.
"He said what he said about how we feel about each other," Busch said. "But nobody has ever asked me how I feel about him."
So how do you feel about Reutimann?
"I race guys how they race me, and I've always gotten raced really hard against Reutimann," Busch said. "I've gotten no room and no slack."
Busch said he had an issue with Reutimann before bumping into him at Kansas.
"I had the opportunity to pass him at Lap 30, and he raced me so hard it cost me two spots," Busch said. "I just backed off and said, 'You know what, it's not the time in the race to do this. No big deal.'
"The next time I got back to him was Lap 50, and I didn't cut him any slack and got into him, not meaning to."
Busch was asked why he didn't try to call Reutimann this week and make peace.
"Why should I apologize to a guy who races me like an ass---- every week," Busch said. "There's no point. It bothers me, and it bothered a lot of the Toyota people, too."
Obviously, one Toyota driver taking out another Toyota driver would concern the Toyota folks. Busch said he talked to Toyota officials this week, but would not elaborate other than insinuating they were on his side.
Lee White, president of Toyota Racing Development, said they aren't taking sides.
"We talked [with] ownership and management of both teams about this situation," White said Friday. "All these guys are part of our family, and sometimes there are family squabbles. It doesn't mean you love your kids any less."
White said Reutimann sent him a text saying he wished none of it had happened.
Before he ran into me off Turn 2, he brake-checked me getting into Turn 1, so I had an idea what was coming. But I thought, 'This would be really dumb if it did happen.' And it did. It makes us look like idiots.” -- Kyle Busch
"I haven't talked to Kyle,'' White said. "If our crystal ball was good enough to know this would happen, a lot of people would have been on the pit boxes to make sure it didn't happen.
"Race drivers are highly emotional and highly skilled. When you get type-A personalities like that going 200 miles per hour, things are going to happen."
This was another "have at it" moment on a high-speed oval where payback is a safety issue.
"There is a concern with the speeds we carry," Busch said. "Obviously, there was a malicious intent in what [Reutimann] did. Had it happened a little differently than it did, who knows what could have happened.
"He was trying to spin me out. He missed and caused other damage. Had he spun me out, who's to say at that speed I couldn't have gotten upside down on the back stretch. Something a lot scarier could have happened."
That was the case in Atlanta last March when Carl Edwards executed his payback moment on Brad Keselowski, causing Keselowski's car to get airborne and into the wall. Edwards' only punishment was a meaningless three-race probation.
Drivers know "have at it, boys" gives them a get-out-of-jail-free card. Busch used one earlier this year when he did a payback move on Keselowski in a Nationwide race at Bristol.
"Everything is a different case, obviously," Busch said. "Myself and Brad was one of those instances. The thing with David was another.
"In the past, you would have seen repercussions for me at Bristol and Reutimann last week. It's gotten a lot of people talking about it. I don't know how much good it's doing."
Should NASCAR continue to turn a blind eye to every payback moment?
"When it's severe, like Carl and Brad, something needs to be done," Burton said. "You can cross the line, similar to what we saw with the 99 [Edwards]. That's when they need to step in."
Reutimann did the same type of thing Edwards did, but the result was different. No violent crash occurred.
But one other element was in play this time. A driver outside the Chase intentionally wrecked a driver with a chance to win the title.
"I think what people need to remember is there are 43 cars out there on the track competing, whether they are in the Chase or not," Tryson said. "Everyone is trying to win the race and every competitor deserves the same amount of respect.
"I am incredibly fortunate to have contended for several Chase championships, and now it's all about winning races for NAPA [Truex's sponsor]. We're taking chances now because we have nothing to lose."
That can be the problem. One team has nothing to lose. Another team has everything to lose. Consequently, "have at it, boys" favors the guy with nothing to lose.
So what's the right thing to do?
"Everybody wants everything," Burton said. "They want NASCAR to stay out of it until their driver is involved, then they want NASCAR to do something about it."
Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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