Shortly after climbing out of his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, dejected, knowing that he missed the Chase by eight points, Kyle Busch was reflective, somber, and candid. But, one thing he was not: immature.
While Kyle Busch is one of the best drivers on the track, his sportsmanship and the way he conducts himself in the face of adversity has left a lot to be desired.
Earlier this year, I wrote that Busch has a long way to go before he becomes championship material. He needs to mature; he needs to learn about sportsmanship.
I’m not talking about running away from the media after a wreck, or insulting the media or other drivers when he wrecks. While that does harm his image, it has little to do with his on-track performance. What does affect his performance is his inability to stay calm, be patient, and provide constructive feedback.
Over the course of the past two seasons, we’ve seen many instances of Busch acting like an immature child after wrecking or battling an ill-handling car. The problem is that when he gets in that mindset, he doesn’t help the crew adjust the car, and he becomes more aggressive on the track, which results in a higher likelihood of wrecks.
Until he matures, Busch will not be able to give Steve Addington the feedback he needs to improve an ill-handling car. But, Saturday night showed that maybe Busch is starting to get it.
Busch ran solidly in the top 10 for most of the race, and stayed around Brian Vickers (who he was contending with for the final Chase berth). On the final restart with 15 laps to go, Busch ran sixth while Vickers ran seventh. Vickers held his position while Busch got as high as fourth, before finishing fifth. Vickers’ finish ensured he would be in the Chase and Busch would be out.
Busch could have been angry. He could have declined an interview. He could have ran away and sulked like we’ve seen him do many times before. But, he didn’t. He thanked his crew over the radio. He commended them for their effort in his post-race interview. He said:
We did all we can do. We gave a valiant effort and it was a good night for the [team] to come in fifth place. That’s what you look for in these deals and unfortunately it wasn’t enough for tonight to get ourselves locked in the Chase, but it’s not just tonight or it’s not just last week that’s kept us out. It’s been the past 26 races that unfortunately some days I didn’t do my best, and we didn’t have the best cars or whatever it might have been. So you can look at a whole different scenario or a whole different slew of things, but what it boils down to is we missed.
He didn’t point fingers. He didn’t throw anyone under the bus. He indicated that as a team, they missed, and it was what it was. That’s a step up from some of his past behavior. He even went over and congratulated Brian Vickers.
And, while I’m not convinced he’s arrived to a place of maturity quite yet. I will say that I think he’s starting to get it, and has, maybe, turned a corner.
See his post-race comments: