NASCAR: Emotions boil over at Bristol for Kyle Busch, crew chief Dave Rogers

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The trials and tribulations of Bristol Motor Speedway can be very frustrating to deal with.

Thus, it’s probably safe to assume that Kyle Busch and his crew chief, Dave Rogers, are not the first driver/CC combo to get mad at each other during a night in Thunder Valley.

But considering that they’re preparing to race for a Sprint Cup title in a few weeks, their radio conversation late in last night’s Irwin Tools Night Race may not be interpreted as a good sign.

Busch’s frustrations began earlier on in the evening, when he was tagged with a pit road speeding penalty and then got involved in a multi-car pileup at Lap 125 that effectively ruined any hope of a decent finish.

Fast-forward to near the end of the race, where Busch and Rogers had the following radio exchange according to Motor Racing Network’s Dustin Long:

Busch: “I need a whole new right front suspension, a whole new right front suspension. I will be behind the wall in about two [expletive] laps.”

Rogers: “Park it behind the truck and take your whiny little ass to the bus.”

Both Rogers and team owner Joe Gibbs downplayed the exchange afterwards, with Rogers characterizing it as a miscommunication.

“We came back here to the truck and had a great talk,” Rogers said according to Long. “You look at things like this as a negative and negatives create positives if you look at them the right way. We got to air things out and had a great talk. I think we’re going to be better going forward.”

As for Gibbs – who’s no doubt seen some instances like this before over the course of his careers in both the NFL and NASCAR – he didn’t express concern about a potential rift between his driver and CC on the No. 18 squad.

“That’s just pro sports,” Gibbs said according to NASCAR.com. “Every now and then, you get frustrated.”

Over the last four races, Busch, Rogers and the 18 camp have suffered one calamity after another.

Pocono saw Busch bow out early with an engine failure. At the next race at Watkins Glen, contact between him and Martin Truex Jr. relegated “Rowdy” to a 40th-place finish.

Then at Michigan, Busch hit the wall on Lap 4 and was forced to the garage for extensive repairs before finishing 39th. Last night, Busch was credited with 36th place.

In a post-race statement on his own web site, Busch did not reference his exchange with Rogers.

“It was a very frustrating night,” he said. “I thought we had a pretty good Doublemint Camry, and we were able to make it through the field there at the start of the race and take the lead. I’m not sure where we are off on the speeding penalty, but we’ll have to look at what the issue there was.

“You get back into the field, and we ended up getting caught up in someone else’s mess. The Doublemint guys worked hard to get our car as raceable as possible, but it turned out to be a really long night.”

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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