By admin | December 28, 2011
By Richard Allen
On Tuesday afternoon Dave Moody of SiriusXMNASCAR reported that Joe Gibbs racing has asked that their Sprint Cup driver, Kyle Busch, to refrain from racing in the Camping World Truck Series in 2012. This request by JGR comes on the heels of their driver having been parked for one Cup race near the end of the season by NASCAR for intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday in a truck race at the Texas Motor Speedway.
As a result of that incident, Gibbs’ primary sponsor, M&Ms, removed itself from their car for the remainder of the 2011 season. If insider reports are to be believed, the candy maker came very close to leaving the team all together but was eventually convinced to return to the #18 Toyota in 2012.
There is precedent for a sponsor to punish the driver they support. Home Depot once fined Tony Stewart after that driver was involved in an incident with a photographer.
But one rub in this particular situation is that Busch drives for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports team on the truck series, not JGR.
From the perspective of JGR, how could they do anything else except discourage Busch from competing in the truck series? It’s an incredible risk for them to take a chance that they might lose their main financial backer as a result of something that could happen in a lower division race in a car they do not even own.
According to the story posted on the SiriusXMNASCAR website, KBM general manager Rick Ren emphasizes the word “requested” when discussing the move by JGR. He also states that the topic has been much discussed in his team’s shop. He called it “a high probability” that his boss will not race in the truck series this coming season.
There is no doubt that Kyle Busch is one of the most talented drivers in the NASCAR garage. However, he is also one of the most volatile. And every time he takes to the track there is a chance of something happening that could endanger his standing in the sport(remember the incident with Richard Childress). Joe Gibbs Racing is doing the prudent thing by requesting that he stay out of the truck series for a while. The risk of embarrassing a sponsor that is likely putting up as much as $15-20 million per year to the point that they leave the sport is not worth taking.
In order to appease that sponsor in a time when sponsors are leaving the sport, the loss of such a significant backer would not be easily overcome. Gibbs is taking the proper action from their point of view in this situation. They have no choice but to look after their own interests.
But at the same time, KBM has responsibilities as well. There are sponsors and employees in that shop who depend on Kyle Busch driving for them. Perhaps Kurt Busch and/or other drivers will be brought in to keep the team going. Or, having seen evidence of his rebellious personality, there is always the chance Kyle Busch decides to just ignore his Sprint Cup team’s request and race the truck himself. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the course of the season.
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