When Kyle Busch got home from Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he put his cell phone on mute, unplugged his home phone and closed the blinds on his house.
Like everyone else at Joe Gibbs Racing, he wanted to get as far from the sport – and the rest of the world – as possible.
Busch finished 12th in the Chase for the Championship, but his season wasn’t defined by wins or how bad his Toyota ran during the playoffs.
What will be remembered is being parked at Texas for intentionally running Ron Hornaday Jr. into the wall.
For the most part, NASCAR barely tolerated Busch’s previous tantrums, but his meltdown at Texas crossed a line that sent shockwaves throughout the JGR organization.
Sponsor M&M’s demanded to have their name removed from the car for the final two races. Gibbs considered firing the talented 26-year-old driver.
And more important, Busch lost respect from almost everyone else in the garage area – including many who wear the JGR colors.
So how will Busch deal with his problems in the off-season?
“To get away and to have nobody be able to get a hold of me,” he said. “That would be nice. We’ll see how it goes, you know.”
Denny Hamlin didn’t have any problems with NASCAR.
His troubles came with his race car.
“If I had one word to describe the season, it would be forgettable,” he said. “We started to hit our stride at midseason, then we tailed off. Kyle had his problems and Joey (Logano) really struggled. This wasn’t the year we expected at JGR.”
WORKING IN TANDEM: Several teams worked on new ideas to break up tandem drafting at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway last week, but they aren’t any closer to breaking up the two-car packs.
NASCAR tried smaller spoilers and a variety of different springs and shocks to make the first car in the tandem more unstable.
While it showed some promise, it didn’t solve the problem.
“We’re not there yet,” David Ragan said.
“It’s still faster with the two-car drafts.”
Another idea by the sanctioning body is to increase speeds. The goal is to bring single-car qualifying speeds closer to 200 mph, and that should make the cars harder to drive in traffic.
“We would prefer to eliminate tandem racing in the manner it exists today,” NASCAR chairman Brian France said. “There is no question about that. We are working on rolling back the clock to traditional Daytona, Talladega races. We’ll have to see how that goes.
“I think the majority of fans would like to see that and so would we.”
STILL HURTING: Finances are still in slow speed in NASCAR.
Mass layoffs are expected during the off-season with the closure of several teams. Sponsorships are more difficult to find, making it increasingly difficult for teams to stay in business.
“I’ve never seen it like this,” said two-time Camping World Truck Series champion Todd Bodine. “The first question a car owner asks is how much money do you have? Then they want to know if you can speak. The last thing that’s important is if you can drive.”