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Gibbs: Busch faces team sanctions

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Friday, Nov. 11, 2011

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Kyle Busch was emphatic Friday.

He wants to remain in NASCAR, he wants to remain with Joe Gibbs Racing and he wants to drive the M&M's-sponsored Toyota.

After a week of frantic talks and negotiations, all of that is still possible.

The question remains whether Busch can do what is expected of him to make it happen, beginning with this weekend's Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway.

His team owner, Joe Gibbs, thinks he can.

“When you're put in a situation like this, you really can make one of two decisions. I think the one would have been devastating for everybody associated with Kyle – everybody around him and for the sport,” Gibbs said.

“What I've chosen to do is support Kyle and I feel like this could have a positive impact on Kyle and I'm committed to him as a person. I like him – we've been through a lot together.”

Busch missed last weekend's Nationwide and Cup races at Texas after NASCAR parked him for the weekend following his intentional wreck of Ron Hornaday under caution in the Truck race.

On Monday, NASCAR added a $50,000 fine and probation through the end of the year but allowed him to return to racing.

Busch will drive his No. 18 Toyota in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 but with another punishment – his regular sponsor, M&M's, has removed its logos from the car for the season's final two races.

“There's an opportunity for me to become a better person, to grow and learn from this, and I'm looking forward to those days,” said Busch, who wore a dress shirt to Friday's newss conference at PIR instead of his usual M&M's-branded clothing.

“I'm sure I've lost respect from my team, with my sponsors, with my peers, and I understand those consequences.”

And there remains some fallout for Busch.

M&M's confirmed it would return in 2012 as Busch's sponsor in Cup, but he will sit out next weekend's Nationwide series race. A planned start in the Truck season finale next weekend remains up in the air.

Asked if the Texas incident would affect Busch's Nationwide and Truck series schedules next season, Gibbs was noncommittal.

“Kyle has 40-something people working over there (at Kyle Busch Motorsports), we have a large number of our race team devoted to Nationwide and so I think that's something that we'll just continue to work through,” he said.

Gibbs also said Busch would face some other “financial penalties.”

Busch acknowledged there were times over the past week he wondered whether he would continue to drive for JGR.

“Was there a point in which Joe ever told me, 'Hey, we're looking at terminating this?' No,” Busch said. “Joe has been there and has stuck by my side and has held my arm through this whole deal.

“I can't say enough about the man sitting next to me.”

For the final two Cup races, a longtime JGR sponsor, Interstate Batteries, will adorn JGR's No. 18 Toyota.

“It was the right thing to do for JGR and the 18 team, Kyle included. A 20-year relationship means supporting in good/bad times,” the company posted on Twitter.

And for Busch, two races remain to show NASCAR officials, his peers and his fans that incidents such as last week's can become the exception rather than the rule.

“I understand my actions last weekend were uncalled for, were disrespectful,” he said. “I'm here to make sure that I can continue to make it where everybody believes in me from this week forward.”

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