A two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has weighed in after a week filled with discussions about on-track conflicts. Kyle Busch had some harsh words about the lack of respect in the garage.
Busch made his comments on March 18 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He responded to questions about the Phoenix incident featuring Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain, and he detailed the reason for the lack of clean racing in the national series.
“We have completely lost any sense of respect in the garage area between drivers,” Busch said at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “That’s where the problem lies. Nobody gives two s**** about anybody else and it’s just a problem where everybody takes advantage of everybody as much as they can.
“We’re all selfish, granted, but there was an etiquette that did live here. Mark [Martin] started it, I think Tony [Stewart] really lived by it, I think Jeff (Gordon) lived by it. Bobby Labonte, Rusty [Wallace], for the most part, Dale Jarrett for sure. So, I mean, it did exist.”
Busch No Longer Tries To Address These Issues
The lack of respect in the three national series has been a point of discussion for multiple years. Denny Hamlin has mentioned it numerous times during at-track interviews, as have other drivers.
How does NASCAR correct this issue? Do the veterans step in and try to provide guidance? That could be one possible route, but Busch said that the younger drivers have not listened to him during previous conversations.
“I’ve tried to talk to guys,” Busch continued. “They don’t listen. So, I’ve lost interest in talking to them. I had a teammate that I talked to — kid that raced for me for two years in the Truck Series real recently — who I got into it last week with and tried to talk to him about those exact same issues. And lo and behold, it happened to me three races into a new year somewhere else. So, I’m done talking to them.”
There was an incident that occurred late during the Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway, one that involved Busch and former Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Chandler Smith. The two drivers — both in Kaulig Racing cars — made contact multiple times while fighting for position on the final lap.
The contact led to Busch losing control and starting to spin. He was able to keep the No. 10 Chevrolet moving forward and mostly out of the wall, but he lost several positions before finishing ninth. Smith went on to finish fifth.
Respect Has Been the Center of Conversations for Multiple Seasons
Discussions about respect are more prevalent now that Hamlin has a podcast of his own. He has a bigger platform that he can use to discuss important topics surrounding NASCAR and its national series.
Of course, comments about respect are nothing new for Hamlin. He has been very vocal on the subject for multiple seasons. One prominent example is the Championship Four Media Day during the 2021 season, which took place after an incident involving him and Alex Bowman at Martinsville Speedway.
“At no point do I feel like [Bowman] said ‘I’m going to go in there and wreck him,’” Hamlin told reporters on November 4, 2021. “I think he went in there and said ‘I’m going to run into him and whatever the result is the result is.’ To me, it’s just a lack of respect thinking that that spot means more to you than it means to me.
“I am [mad at him] because it’s a lack of situational awareness. And if the roles were reversed, there would be no question that those teams would be just as pissed off as I was. That their season was nearly taken away because of someone’s irresponsibility.”
Less than one year later, several people weighed in about the topic after a messy trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course which featured considerable disrespect between drivers entering Turn 1. Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Greg Ives, in particular, said the lack of professionalism was bad for the sport.
“I see better racing out of my seven-year-old kid,” Ives said on August 1, 2022. “When we go to these Go-Kart tracks, they touch somebody, they get penalized for incidental contact or avoidable contact. We have professionals there running it like it’s an S&S Speedway slingshot race.
“It’s not good for racing, it’s not good for professionalism. Ultimately, NASCAR has to figure out how to make it so… like I said, one of these bodies don’t have hardly any detriment for running the next guy over in front of you. Maybe a bruised nose or a black eye might help.”
The lack of respect has been an issue for multiple seasons. Will the situation improve as more people speak out? It’s possible, but some of the veterans are not overly optimistic as they continue with the 2023 Cup Series season.