Sporting dark sunglasses, Kyle Busch stepped out of the NASCAR transporter determined to do his best impression of former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who scrupulously avoided making meaningful comments to reporters.
To five straight questions, Busch answered with some variation of the following: “Everything’s great. Looking forward to getting back to the race track and back in my race car.”
Everything wasn’t so great for Busch last Sunday in Las Vegas, when, during a battle for third place, Joey Logano’s Ford slid up the track into Busch’s Toyota on the last lap of the Kobalt 400. Busch spun toward the inside wall and eventually finished 22nd.
Logano saved his car and came home fourth, only to have Busch launch a haymaker in his direction on pit road. When Logano’s crew members jumped into the fray to protect their driver, Busch was taken to the pavement and wound up with a bloody cut to his forehead.
That’s why NASCAR summoned both Busch and Logano to the hauler on Friday morning at Phoenix International Raceway, site of Sunday’s Camping World 500, the fourth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the season.
“It’s an emotional sport,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “We still view that as two drivers racing hard for position. If that escalates beyond that to someone doing something intentional on the race track, we were very clear that we’ll react.
“But we’re moving on, and we want to see a great race here in Phoenix.”
Logano has repeatedly acknowledged he made a mistake as he battled Busch for position, and at Busch’s request he brought data to the meeting to prove his point.
“I told him that we obviously made contact on the back straightaway,” Logano said. “I had a not very good entry (into turn 3) and had to slow down the car a lot to stay on the bottom and tried to make up some of that speed at the bottom of the race track and then I got loose. Once you get loose once, then I was on his door. You get loose again, and at that point that was it. That is my mistake. I tried to stay on the bottom but my car didn’t stay there.
“There could be six or seven different reasons why that happened, but the fact of the matter is I tried to stay on the bottom, I made a mistake and got up into him. I hate that it happened. I would take it back in a heartbeat. He asked for data when we talked on the phone (during the week), and I was able to bring that with me and present that and try to explain what was going on inside my race car. We try to move on from there.”
How quickly Busch will move on remains to be seen, and his rote answers after Friday’s meeting gave little insight as to his real feelings on the matter.
After Rough Start, Suarez Returns To Comfort Zone
The start to the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season hasn’t gone the way Daniel Suarez would have hoped.
Pressed into service at NASCAR’s highest level by the abrupt departure of Carl Edwards during the offseason, Suarez crashed out of the Daytona 500 in 29th place and finished 21st and 20th in the subsequent two races at Atlanta and Las Vegas.
This week, however, the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion returns to Phoenix International Raceway, where he has enjoyed unqualified success.
In four Xfinity races at PIR, Suarez has posted three top-fives. In two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts, he has a victory and a fourth-place run.
Accordingly, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate is enthused by the prospect of racing at Phoenix in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for the first time. Suarez participated in an organized test at Phoenix on Jan. 31-Feb. 1.
Suarez also won at PIR in the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series and posted two top 10s in three starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
“Overall, Phoenix is one of those places that doesn’t matter which series I’m going in, I feel very comfortable,” Suarez said. “It’s a place that I feel like I have maybe the most experience of the NASCAR race tracks that we go on this year.
“It’s always fun to come here and to race in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. It will be very helpful to have that test over a month ago. Hopefully, we can put something that we learn for today’s practice, hopefully be strong for Sunday.”
NASCAR Xfinity Drivers Are Ready To Dash For Cash
The first of four NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash races is set for Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway, and the competition for the $100,000 prize incorporates this year’s stage-based race structure.
With Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veterans with more than five year’s full-time experience in the series excluded from the event, Xfinity regulars are vying for two positions from each of the first two stages. The highest two finishers from each stage among eligible drivers will compete in the third and final stage, with the highest finisher among the four earning the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.
If any one driver wins all four Dash 4 Cash bonuses—at Phoenix, Bristol, Richmond and Dover—that driver will collect an additional $600,000 for a total of $1 million.
“Obviously, the money is on the line and we want to be able to go and get that, but at the end of the day it is still a race, and with these stages, we still have some many points and playoff implications if you can win that,” said Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Tifft.
“We definitely have a little bit more incentive to go out at the end of the race if we’re in contention for that to be able to go and compete for the Dash 4 Cash prize.”