This week we head to Texas with only 3 races to go in the schedule and everyone has something to prove. Greg Biffle wants to prove that he can still win races, and do what he said was his job after the race in Loudon. “My job as a race car driver is to go out there and give it my best shot to win the next 8 races”. So with credit being given to his crew chief Matt Puccia, Biffle will lead the field to the green flag today for the AAA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Biffle, the last driver to make a qualifying attempt, scorched the 1.5-mile track with a lap at 193.736 mph edging his teammate David Ragan by just one thousandth of a second at the line. Ragan won the pole the last time at Texas as Roush showed how dominant their cars were on that trip to the track as well.
For Biffle, this is his 9th career pole, and his third of this season. He gives the credit to his Crew Chief Matt Puccia for turning around his qualifying efforts and for giving him the edge he has been lacking.
“Ever since Matt came on board [in July], we have put a little more emphasis on qualifying,” Biffle said. “The draw for qualifying goes off of practice speeds. It kind of forced our hand to come here on Friday and start in qualifying trim, which we never [did before].
“The rules have forced us into getting a good draw for qualifying, so it’s up to us [rather than by random draw]. I made a total of seven laps today — now eight. That’s all I’ve done today.”
Carl Edwards thought he had a shot at the pole, but was disappointed with his lap. As he got loose coming to the green, Edwards ran conservatively in a lap he called perhaps “too timid.”
“The Fords are so great here, and Jack Roush’s Fords run so well,” Edwards said. “I’m the odd man out there. I got shown up by my teammates pretty bad, but hopefully we’ll have a good, solid race.”
After trash talking Carl Edwards all week, Tony Stewart showed he was putting his car where his mouth was by qualifying 5th, 2 spots ahead of Edwards, and by running 3rd fastest in practice. Now he can concentrate on staying out front instead of getting up there.
“To be third in practice and top five in qualifying, that is exactly the way you have to start the weekend off,” Stewart said. “We’ll get a pretty good pit spot out of this, hopefully.”
“We’re not having to fight through all the crowd to get up there [to the front]. We’re going to be up there, hopefully all day, and just keep tweaking on it versus having to get there.”
So with Biffle on the pole the top 5 round out with David Ragan in 2nd, Matt Kenseth in 3rd, Paul Menard in 4th and Tony Stewart in 5th.
Kyle Busch has been grounded by NASCAR following an on track incident Friday with Ron Hornaday. NASCAR has been soft on their rulings in regards to incidents like these since issuing their “Boys have at it” edict earlier in the year. NASCAR President Mike Helton has been very clear though that should someone cross the line that “They would know when they saw it” all season, no one had come close to it, until now.
“The responsibility over the past two or three seasons we’ve given back to the drivers came, I think with a very clear understanding that there could be a line that got crossed,” Helton said. “As annoying as the comments that I’ve made personally in the past about ‘we’ll know it when we see it’ might have been, we saw it [Friday] night. Obviously after the event, a lot of folks put their heads together to decide what, if anything, we would do.”
“The volume of occurrences or reactions like I’m talking about, the rarity of those times that we’d make a step like this speak to the uniqueness and the severity of the topic. We understand the ramifications or the ripple effect of us making this type of a move, but we also take our responsibility very serious as to maintaining control of the event in all the garages; so it’s a balance there that we ultimately have to make a decision.”
While racing for position early in the race, Hornaday got loose and slid up into Busch causing him to brush the wall. Kyle Busch took exception to that, and regardless of the fact that Hornaday was running for a championship, Busch lost his temper and spun Hornaday causing him to go head on into the wall as they exited turn 2. This sent both cars into the garage where Busch was black flagged by NASCAR for “aggressive driving” and parked for there remainder of the race with officials stating that they would “Revisit the situation” on Saturday morning.
Immediately after the incident Kyle was unapologetic about what happened on the track.
“If you consider Ron was in the championship maybe Ron could’ve played it a little bit smarter on Lap 15 and checked-up a little bit and given room to everybody around [him],” Busch said. “Obviously if you make it a three-wide situation — I can’t go up in the dirt. I’m already on the outside lane and there’s not three lanes out here right now. It’s the first race here this weekend.
“So If I just lay over and give up everything for Ron Hornaday, that’s not Kyle Busch’s fashion. I’m out here to win a race just as much as anybody else is. When he races up on my inside, gets loose and takes me up to the fence — I ended up losing my cool.
“I’ve been wrecked four weeks in a row [including two Sprint Cup races] and finally I’ve just had enough of it. Sorry it was Ron Hornaday and he’s going after a championship, but the fact of the matter is you can’t place all the blame on one person — there was two people that got into it to begin with and there’s two people that ended it.”
After the meeting on Saturday morning and his subsequent grounding for the rest of the weekend events, Busch was singing an entirely different tune as he issued the following apology to Hornaday, NASCAR, and to the fans for his actions.
I’ve had a lot of time today to sit and reflect, and try to put my thoughts into words as best I can.
I want to sincerely apologize for my actions during Friday night’s Truck Series race at Texas.
I apologize to my fans, all my sponsors, everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports.
After talking with my team, it’s great to have their support and encouragement to assure me that there are better days ahead. Even though this took place while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, I am sorry for how difficult this has been for everyone associated with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series teams.
I’d also like to apologize to Ron Hornaday Jr., and everyone associated with the No. 33 team in the Truck Series.
I understand why I was taken out of the car for the rest of the weekend. NASCAR officials had to act, and I accept their punishment and take full responsibility for my actions.
As a racecar driver, the hardest thing to do is to sit on the sidelines listening to cars on the track when you know you should be out there competing. For this, I have no one to blame but myself.
Through a lot of support from the people around me, I feel like I’ve made a lot of strides this year, but this was certainly a step backward. Moving forward, I will do everything I possibly can to represent everyone involved in a positive manner. However, I know my long-term actions will have more of a bearing than anything I say right now.
Many had commented on how Busch was showing a lot more maturity this year and how his demeanor has improved to the point where he was looking like a champion, but his actions on Friday reminded a lot of NASCAR fans of why they hated him so much since his arrival in the sport. Hopefully Busch will learn something from this incident, since his championship hopes have been destroyed by his own actions, just as he wrecked Hornaday’s championship efforts in the truck series. It’s one thing to wreck some one in a racing incident, but intentional actions which cause a wreck like that could have led to a much worse outcome that there was. Thankfully all involved were uninjured and able to race another day, but with the recent passing of Dan Wheldon, the mortality of the drivers is still fresh in everyone’s mind. NASCAR ruled with an iron fist on this one and set their position on where that line is, and hopefully no one will cross it like that again.