Have We Finally Seen the ‘New’ Kyle Busch?

by June 3, 2014

Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Yes, you may have grown tired of reading this headline over the years, but I’ll throw my spin on it this week – I believe that we have finally seen the ‘new’ Kyle Busch

My belief for Busch’s maturity comes from what happened after his quest to complete his second career Camping World Truck Series/Nationwide Series/Sprint Cup Series weekend sweep was thwarted after an accident with Clint Bowyer (Michael Waltrip Racing) on Lap 126 of the FedEx 400.

As both drivers came off of Turn 4, Bowyer’s spotter cleared him despite the No. 18 M&Ms Camry being on the high side of the No. 15 5-Hour Energy Camry. Bowyer would move up into Busch and send both cars into the wall. Bowyer was able to soldier on and finish fourth in the race while Busch would retire right after the contact.

What makes me believe that we have finally seen the new Busch is his on-track reaction to the incident.

As the field slowed down to begin pacing under caution, Busch began to tail the No. 15 car. My first reaction was likely that of several others who were viewing the race – ‘oh dear, this is going to go down like the 2011 WinStar World Casino 350K’ – and for a second there, it appeared as if a replay of Busch’s now infamous incident with Ron Hornaday Jr. in the Truck Series three years ago was bound to happen with both Busch and Bowyer. But, there was no such repeat of said incident; in fact, there was no contact between the two competitors at all. After Busch pulled his No. 18 car into his garage stall, he left no incendiary comment regarding Bowyer to the press, he just left, period.

No on-track retaliation? No angry comments made to the press? We are talking about Kyle Busch, right?

The restraint shown by Busch to not retaliate against Bowyer, to me, shows that he has come a long way from the hothead reputation that he earned near the start of his NASCAR career. Some have said that the reason why there was no retaliation at Dover was due to Busch being called off by his spotter. Keep in mind that at the 2011 WinStar World Casino 350K, Busch was also called off by his spotter yet obviously he did not follow his spotter’s instructions then. If this were the Kyle Busch of old, there would be no way that the No. 15 car would be in a good enough condition to finish in the top-20, let alone the top-five.

I find it ironic that I’m personally stating that we’re seeing the new Busch considering I was very critical of the NASCAR media’s rebranding of Busch several years ago pre-Hornaday incident that he changed. However, his reaction to his Dover incident as well as his general attitude thus far this year has finally caused me to change my opinion on the 29-time race winner.

This new sense of maturity within Busch will prove to be absolutely essential for him to go chase down his first Sprint Cup championship. Talent can only carry a driver so far in auto racing (and Busch has plenty of that,) however, maturity and the ability to respond to adversity without making rash decisions is also necessary to win a championship – as Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports) has proven six times in the last eight years.

There has been no word yet as to if whether or not Bowyer or Busch have discussed with each other the incident. It would not surprise me though if there was no communication made between the two since Sunday considering Busch was made aware by his team that the incident took place due to a mistake by Bowyer’s spotter and not Bowyer himself.

If Busch has matured as I’m saying he has, then we won’t see any sort of payback at Pocono or at any other track down the line. The only motivation Busch needs to take from Dover is not to get even with Bowyer, but to deliver strong performance after strong performance to completely lock himself into this year’s Chase and to go on to win his first championship.