Kyle Busch – Where The Rubber Didn’t Meet The Road

Charlotte, NC (September, 10, 2012) – Walk into any tire dealership today and depending on the brand, a set of four new tires for your 2012 Toyota Camry will cost you anywhere between $250 and $600.

On Saturday, not bolting on a new set of four NASCAR Goodyear Eagle racing tires cost Kyle Busch somewhere around $6 million.

That’s approximately what the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion will take home in bonuses for winning the title this year. It’s pretty safe to say that in hindsight, laying out $650 for the new Goodyear rubber would have made a lot more ‘cents’ Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing team.

In case you missed it, Busch and a half-dozen other front-running cars opted not to pit when rain showers hit Richmond International Raceway on Lap 277 of Saturday’s Cup event.

Channeling their inner Willard Scott, those teams bet the showers would persist and prematurely end the 400-circuit event. Meanwhile, the rest of the lead-lap cars back in the pack pitted for fresh rubber rolling the dice that the event would go back to green-flag conditions.

They proved to be right as the rains quickly passed and when the race got the signal it would go back to green-flag conditions in one lap, all the leaders who opted not to initial stop headed to pit road to bolt on four fresh Goodyears.

That is everyone but Busch, who also wanted to pit, but didn’t when crew chief Dave Rogers told him to stay out.

“What do you mean we’ve got to stay out? It was the (expletive) one (lap) to go (expletive),” Busch radioed to Rogers.

Busch was right. Pitting for tires was the hot tip. Everybody in the place – with the exception of Rogers – knew it.

Busch was a sitting duck on the restart as everyone who took tires rocketed by him. After running a solid race staying out of trouble and in front of his rivals for the final spot in the Chase throughout the event, he was now on the skids. Busch quickly nosedived in the running order losing a lap to the leaders when eventual race winner Clint Bowyer motored by on the 324th circuit.

Now, instead of bringing Busch to pit road for fresh tires, Rogers let him out on the track for an additional 10 laps – losing even more spots and track position – in hope of a caution and a shot at the ‘Lucky Dog.’

It never came.

To make matters worse, Busch’s main competitor for the final Chase position – Jeff Gordon – got the ‘Lucky Dog’ and back on the lead lap with the Lap 277 caution. Now, as Busch was free falling in the running order, Gordon was romping through the field closing the point’s differential between him and Busch with every pass.

Talk about a double whammy.

Busch eventually headed to pit road – completely out of tires. There, his JGR crew laid another egg leaving a lug nut off the right rear. The extended pit stop returned Busch to the race in 27th-position, three laps down to the leaders.

Busch managed to rally back to 16th, but his championship aspirations melted as Gordon wound up second behind Bowyer – good enough for ‘Wonder Boy’ to beat Busch for the final spot in the 2012 Chase by a scant three points.

Rogers immediately took fault on the JGR team radio for the giant string of miscues. Meanwhile, team owner Joe Gibbs was the first to the No. 18 Camry to advise Busch to “handle it the right way.”

Busch, who hasn’t always been a media darling after experiencing a racing disappointment, was short and to the point in his post-race remarks.

“We missed. That’s it. Plain and simple.”

You know Busch wanted to scream out after just seeing his 2012 season and a chance to be it’s champion, but he didn’t – even though he had six million reasons to lose his cool.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out for Busch. He and Rogers haven’t exactly ‘clicked’ this year and Saturday’s faux pas already have some predicting Rogers’ demise at JGR at the end of the season. Only time will tell.

Regardless of that outcome, the chance to win a championship ended for Busch Saturday night at Richmond because of the decision to not take tires. This was one time where – to paraphrase an old Firestone tire advertising slogan – where the rubber didn’t meet the road.

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