Kyle Busch denounces lack of respect between NASCAR drivers

HAMPTON, Ga. – Two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch laments the lack of respect among NASCAR drivers, saying he tried talking to competitors but it didn’t help.

“We completely lost any sense of respect in the garage between the drivers,” Busch said Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “There’s the problem. No one gives two (expletive) about anyone.

“It’s just an issue where everyone takes advantage of everyone as much as they can. We are all selfish, right. But there was a label that once lived here.

“Mark (Martin) started it. Tony (Stewart) lived for her. I think Jeff (Gordon) lived for it. Bobby Labonte, Rusty (Wallace) mostly, Dale Jarrett for sure. He existed. This is over.”

The issue of driver respect was a topic Saturday in Atlanta, in light of Denny Hamlin’s last-lap wrecking of Ross Chastain last weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR penalized Hamlin 25 points and $50,000 only after Hamlin admitted on his podcast that he intentionally hit Chastain following past issues with Chastain.

Busch referenced Hamlin and Chastain when asked on Saturday if he understood the difference between racing hard and taking someone out.

“No,” said Busch, “because last year at Gateway it was pretty good cat-and-mouse representation and nothing was done. What do we do in these situations?”

Chastain’s contact destroyed Hamlin at Gateway last June. About 15 laps later, Hamlin took Chastain to the apron on the backstretch before Chastain passed. Later, Hamlin stopped Chastain again. It got to the point where NASCAR instructed the team to tell Hamlin that he had defended his point.

Asked what he would like to see done in such situations, Bush said: “Drivers must be ethical and take responsibility for their actions and race and race hard.

“If you make a mistake, that’s fine, I understand. When you intentionally drive over someone because they made a move on you or something you didn’t like, then you get punched in the face afterwards.”

Busch also expressed displeasure on Saturday with Chandler Smith, noting his last-lap contact in Phoenix as he raced for third place in the Xfinity Series race. Smith called the contact a “race incident” after the race.

“I tried talking to the guys,” Busch said. “They don’t listen, so I lost interest in talking to them. I spoke to a teammate, a kid who raced for me two years in the Truck Series recently, who I spoke to last week and tried to talk to him about the exact same issues. Lo and behold, it happened to me three races in a new year somewhere else, so I got tired of taking them.

Busch said two conversations with Tony Stewart early in his career were impactful.

“I think the biggest thing was the impact it had for me was him taking the time and doing that, but also giving him the respect and understanding that he’s been around for a long time and he’s competed against a lot of these great riders and it was a two-time champion at the time,” said Busch. “So I gave him that respect and we’ve rarely had any problems since. I think that says it all.

Busch said one solution to the problems at the track would be to do in NASCAR what happens at some small tracks.

Involved in an incident, the driver is sent to the back of the peloton. That’s what happens at the races that Busch’s son Brexton does.

“He already knows he can’t run someone over because he’s sent backwards,” Busch said of his son. “I think it’s another thing, there are no repercussions for running over someone. If you want to do that, you’re sent back, you’re held, something. But if you spin someone out – and I’m guilty of that, I’ve spun someone to the lead before or to the win before or something like that in crash racing – but if that happens you get sent to the back.

“Care leaves, you go back. There are repercussions to that now. That’s the adage of the short track and how these kids learn when they’re growing up. Maybe we need to implement that here.”

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