LONG POND, Pa. - For someone as talented as Kyle Busch, trouble seems to follow him.
Kevin Harvick punched Busch after a race at Darlington early last month. A couple of weeks ago, Busch was cited for speeding 128 mph in a 45-mph zone in North Carolina in a borrowed Lexus, with his wife as a passenger. Then, following Saturday's Camping World Truck Series race at Kansas, rival team owner Richard Childress put Busch in a headlock and punched him.
Childress, 65, was fined $150,000 by NASCAR and placed on probation until Dec. 31. Even though Busch bumped the Childress-owned truck of Joe Coulter on the cooldown lap in Kansas, NASCAR officials decided he should not be reprimanded.
Busch, 26, seems puzzled why he is such a target.
Referring to the Coulter incident, Busch said yesterday at Pocono Raceway: "I'm not sure that I really did a whole lot to bring that back upon myself. I feel like I've acted in the utmost respect to every case that's come my way. I've tried to do it with dignity and class."
Then, with a straight face, Busch said: "Me giving a congratulatory bump to Joey Coulter is what tipped [Childress] over the edge. I don't recall any time where Richard did tell me that 'If you touch another one of my cars, I'm going to come find you.'
"I've been able to have good conversations and talk to people outside the race car. Whether it's the case that they're not being true to my face, I don't know. If you're mad at me, you'll have to tell me."
Busch made his comments in Pocono's infield media center during scheduled driver press sessions dealing with tomorrow's 5-hour Energy 500. Earlier, Childress, who owns the teams for Harvick and Jeff Burton, stood outside Burton's hauler and issued a statement. Childress did not take questions.
He reiterated what he said after he was fined, saying he is responsible for his actions and passionate about auto racing. Childress said he plans to pay the fine.
"I agree that NASCAR should have done something with me," he said, adding that he thought Busch should have received some penalty for initiating contact with Coulter's truck.
Donations from fans toward paying his fine will be given to the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Busch, in an equally charitable mood, said donations toward his previous fines are given to his foundation.
"Hopefully, Kyle and myself will both end up learning something from this," Childress said.
Busch's older brother, Kurt, experienced similar animosity early in his NASCAR career. Kurt's advice to his younger bro': "He has a lot of things going on in his life - his truck program, running in the Nationwide Series and the Cup side. I just told him, 'Don't waver on what's gotten you to this point. At the end of the day, just try to smile more.' "
Kyle is fifth in points, 11 points ahead of Kurt.
Cup points leader Carl Edwards was the fastest in yesterday's first Cup practice (167.729 mph), meaning he will be qualifying last today. The slowest cars in practice will qualify first. The new plan presumably will sustain fans' interest in qualifying until it's over. Paul Menard (167.648 mph) was second fastest; Jimmie Johnson (167.454 mph) was third.
If qualifying is rained out, Edwards will start on the pole in tomorrow's 500-mile Cup race, since the starting lineup will be determined by yesterday's first practice.
Texan Brennan Poole, appearing in just his second ARCA series race, claimed the pole for today's race with a 167.264 clocking. Ty Dillon, Richard Childress' grandson, qualified second fastest (165.645 mph). Cherry Hill's Tom Hessert will start 11th. *