TALLADEGA, Ala. — A quarter of the way through the season, Kyle Busch is cryptic about his future, Kevin Harvick raises concerns about how NASCAR communicates, and Tyler Reddick faces questions about showing too much sportsmanship after losing last weekend’s race when he was spun on the last lap.
Yeah, everybody is feeling good with 28 Cup races left, including the All-Star Race, over the next 29 weekends. Get ready for more frustration and flippancy in the coming weeks.
Busch could have said Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway that talks continue with Joe Gibbs Racing. Instead, the two-time Cup champion, whose team seeks a sponsor because M&M’s will leave after this season, answered questions about his future in a different manner.
Here’s his give-and-take with the media:
Do you have any sort of timeframe for when you want your plans to be decided for next year?
Are you getting antsy about it?
Busch: “I’m not getting antsy about it. If it happens, it happens. If it don’t, it don’t. Goodbye.”
So goodbye is an option?
Busch: “Ask Joe Gibbs.”
Have you been knocking on his door about it?
Busch: “Not my problem.”
It’s their problem, right?
Busch: “Got to sell it. If you don’t sell it, then nothing to have.”
So it’s all about the sponsor?
That’s got to be frustrating, though, in this day and age.
Busch: “Yeah. Truck Series is probably 95% kids with money.”
Do you feel if you don’t get anything from Gibbs that there will be somebody else out there that you land at?
Busch: “Probably not.”
They’ll figure out something, won’t they?
Busch: “Ask Joe Gibbs.”
Would you retire rather than leave JGR?
Busch: “Really? … I would say I lose my ride.”
So what does this mean? Busch has people twisting in the wind about his future, whether it is a game he’s playing or a message he’s sending to JGR — or potential sponsors.
Busch’s comments came a week after Coy Gibbs, vice chairman and chief operating officer at JGR, said in a press conference — with Busch next to him — that “we’ve got a couple of people we’re talking to (in terms of sponsorship), so we’re excited about that, excited about the leads.”
Saw Joe Gibbs on pit road and I asked about whether Kyle Busch would be back at JGR next year. Gibbs: "We're confident we're going to get things done. So we're just working hard at it. It takes a while." @NASCARONFOX
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) April 23, 2022
Harvick’s message Saturday was clear. It was to NASCAR. While Harvick has stated he is not a fan of dirt at Bristol and blasted the track preparation last weekend, Harvick explained his feelings.
Asked if the viewership of 4 million that Fox reported for the Bristol event made racing on Easter worthwhile, Harvick said: “I think it’s almost the same as Richmond (3.95 million). I think it was in line with all the rest of the races. I think you could have put any race on Easter and probably been successful.
“I don’t mind racing on Easter if beneficial and successful. … The thing I don’t like about the dirt race is the unorganization of not knowing the rules. We were told there was going to be a caution at Lap 10 for mud and we went 12 or 13 (laps) and our motor wouldn’t hardly go because it was plugged up and all the air comes from the grille. The motor was 340 degrees. It ruins the first part of the whole race because it didn’t happen like they told us it was going to happen.”
In information provided to the media before the race, there was no mention of a competition caution.
Harvick raised questions about being informed about other changes, including the removal of curbs in the esses at Circuit of the Americas. He also expressed frustration that NASCAR didn’t examine removing the windshield for Bristol until shortly before the event in a single-car test. By then, it was too late to race without the windshield.
“Whether it was that or (curbs) missing and not knowing about them at COTA, the second place car going before the first place car in the restart zone, those are the things that frustrate me. It’s not where we race, when we race, those types of things. I want to do things that are beneficial.
“It’s the inconsistency from all that standpoint. If it would have kept raining (after stage 2 at Bristol) and we didn’t know who won the race, it would have been mass hysteria.
“If we can’t run the race properly and know all the rules and not start working on taking windows and things out of it 10 days before the race, come up with a proper plan and be proactive, then we don’t need to do it.
Harvick was asked if he’s voiced such concerns.
“Which week? I can’t do it every week,” he said. “It just happened to fall that week that there were a lot of things that just didn’t go smooth. It’s not like we didn’t race there last year.
“It has to go smoother from the way that it’s all run. Those are the things that frustrate me. I’m very organized and very to the point. It’s either right or wrong. There were a lot of things that were not consistent and right, and we have to understands our own rules.”
Some rules are less direct, as Tyler Reddick found out. Applauded by some for his sportsmanship after the race, not everyone seemed to approve that Reddick was not more upset with Briscoe for their last-lap incident.
Briscoe attempted a slide job to pass Reddick on the final lap. Briscoe couldn’t make it and his car drifted and hit Reddick’s car. They both spun, allowing Busch, who was running third, to pass both for the win.
After the race, Briscoe went to Reddick to apologize. Reddick took much of the blame for not doing enough to keep Briscoe further behind. They shook hands.
“Certainly, there’s people that I work with that have been doing this a lot longer than I have on the Cup level that haven’t won,” Reddick said Satrurday. “Everyone’s path to how they got here and what their story is, we’re all a little bit different. I guess I can understand why they were more outwardly frustrated than I was. … When you go back and look at it, it still hurts. In the moment when I got out of the car, I wasn’t fired up, wanting to go fight somebody. I wasn’t in that mindset.”
To those who wanted Reddick to fight Briscoe or be more upset, he said: “Just because I didn’t lose my mind, it doesn’t mean that I’m OK with what happened. It still sucked. I still wasn’t OK with it. I understand it wasn’t intentional. In my opinion, I don’t feel like he went in there and tried to wreck me on purpose. I think it’s pretty obvious he tried to do the opposite once he realized it wasn’t going to work.”