LONG POND, Pa. _ Last weekend’s pit road confrontation between Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton raised many eyebrows in the NASCAR garage, not because of Busch’s actions, but because of Burton’s aggressiveness in confronting the driver of the No. 18. Typically a mild-mannered guy, Burton was on fire following the Coca-Cola 600, pointing his finger at Busch and yelling at him as wife Kim tried her best to pull him away.
“He’s real aggressive, and that’s cool,” Burton said after the incident. “But when it starts affecting me because of his aggressiveness I just will not put up with it. I’ve been around here long enough I just will not tolerate it.”
The confrontation followed contact between the two on the final restart of the 600-mile event. As the field took the green flag, Busch’s No. 18 was put in the middle of a three-wide situation with Clint Bowyer to his inside and Burton to the outside. Heading into Turn 1, Busch’s car made slight contact with the left rear tire of Burton’s No. 31. The tire let go and Burton was forced to let the field scream past below him as he slowed to hit pit road. Busch went on to finish third, while Burton limped home in 25th.
Talking with the media on Friday in Pocono, Busch explained he was caught off guard by the incident and unaware what really transpired on the race track, saying he believed Burton finished sixth or seventh.
“So, I was like, ‘Where did this guy come from?’ It was just a spot of the heat of the moment and what transpired on the race track led to the incident on pit road after the race,” Busch said. “I think that we can both move forward and go on and put this behind us and just try to race each other with dignity and respect as much as we have before.”
“I was just pissed off, man,” Burton said. “I didn’t go looking for a fight, I was just pissed off. I had 15 laps or whatever it was to get calmed down and I didn’t. I felt like I needed to handle it and address it right then. I was just mad and it’s not more complicated than that.”
Come to find out, the reason the two made contact on that final restart was due to an earlier repair made to the right front of the No. 18 car. Earlier in the event, Busch made contact with Brad Keselowski as he was exiting his stall on pit road. The team was forced to make repairs to the right side of the car, and this repair was the apparent cause of the contact.
“Until seeing a little bit more of the replay and until seeing my car after the race I had no idea how I touched him or cut his left-rear tire down, but after the race there’s a four inch piece of my car sticking out wider than it normally is,” Busch said. “It was like a tire spear from the repairs my guys did on the car and that’s what got into his tire. I had no idea my car was four inches wider than what it was, but that’s no excuse for what happened.”
Reflecting on the incident and his reaction, Burton admitted he enjoys racing with Busch and knows what happened late in the race was not intentional.
“He didn’t mean to do it, he didn’t set out and say that he was going to cut the left rear tire of the 31 car,” Burton said. “He just did what he thought he needed to do to pick up a position. I have respect for that. He made a mistake and I paid the price for it.”
With the reputation of ‘Rowdy’ Busch, the 25-year-old understands all eyes will be on him when it comes to placing blame for the incident. Coming off a Charlotte speedweeks in which he had defend his comments about wanting to “kill” teammate Denny Hamlin, Busch knows any time he is involved in a controversy he will ultimately be the scapegoat.
“You know I don’t get the benefit of the doubt – ever,” Busch said. “So, it’s all my fault. I apparently got into him and cut his tire down. He didn’t cut his tire down himself. It was just an unfortunate circumstance that it happened and hopefully we can look forward and try to move on and race each other well here on out.”
“If I would’ve done that it would’ve been called childish antics,” Busch added.
The two have not discussed the issue and neither appears as if they feel a need to. What happened on the track was simply a racing incident that took place after Busch made an aggressive move. Neither said they would race the other any different moving forward and we mind as well close the book on this so-called rivalry.
“I think that we’re both professionals,” Burton said. “Kyle’s consistent and I’m consistent. I’m coming to Pocono to race Pocono, I’m not coming to Pocono to race Kyle. I’m not interested in a weekly confrontation. I don’t like them. I don’t like yearly confrontations much less weekly. I’m here to race Pocono and go out and win this race and that is what he’s here to do too. I understand it was heated. To his credit, he handled that pretty well. It’s hard when somebody is in your face, he handled it well, his crew handled it well. It’s a new week.”
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