Radio spat, slump come at bad time for Kyle Busch
August 28, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
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Crew chief Dave Rogers said all the right things in the aftermath of Saturday night's spat with driver Kyle Busch, brushing off the incident at Bristol Motor Speedway as a result of a miscommunication between driver and crew chief.
He didn't deny that radio conversations got heated, but he also made no apologies for his or his driver’s comments.
Indications are that the two spoke afterward and cleared the air. Rogers, for the record, is still listed as Busch's crew chief as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series prepares to head to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, so it would seem safe to assume that no major personnel changes have taken place.
With only two races remaining before the start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, a strained relationship between crew chief and driver doesn't make for a winning combination.
The bigger concern for the team is how to stop the slide that has seen Busch, a winner of 29 Sprint Cup Series races, finish 36th or worse in his last four starts.
He and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing group will be one of the 16 teams participating in this year's Chase, thanks to a win earlier this season at Auto Club Speedway, but unless they can move past the bickering and find their way back into contention, their stay will likely be a short one.
Busch's average finishing position since Pocono is a woeful 39.3. You'd have to go all the way back to 2005 (his first full season in the sport's premier series) and the handful of starts he made in 2004, to find anything close to this bad stretch for Busch.
His one win through 24 races is another oddity, although he had just a single win at this point in the 2012 season. That year, his average finish in the four races before the Atlanta stop was a much more manageable 14.8.
The eight laps he led at Bristol on Saturday night were the first time his Toyota had led laps since New Hampshire (where he finished second), although he also finished second a week later at Indianapolis.
The Indy result capped a four-race run that saw him finish second three times and post an average finish of 8.5, which makes his recent results all the more puzzling.
Busch's talent behind the wheel is impossible to ignore, but so too is his conduct when things aren’t to his liking. Still, such incidents aren't the reason for his team’s lack of success. It isn’t the reason the 29-year-old finished second in three of four races or the reason he finished 36th or worse in the next four.
But in both cases, it probably didn't help.
There's no way to measure the impact of his reactions on his race team other than to look at the results. And those haven't been promising.
No doubt he could handle adversity differently. But would that guarantee him a better chance at winning? Not necessarily.
His team has the tools to be among the very best in the series but right now it's far from it regardless of whether Busch is mad, glad or somewhere in between.
Right now, it's a team in a funk, and no matter what did or didn't happen Saturday night, it's going to take more than simply saying the right things to get it turned around.