NASCAR's preliminary investigation into the post-race fight
between Richard Childress and Kyle Busch has provisionally concluded that the fault for the "unacceptable" incident lies entirely with Childress.
NASCAR released an official statement on the incident that read:
NASCAR has reviewed the incident involving Richard Childress and Kyle Busch after the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Saturday at Kansas Speedway. We have met with all parties involved and have determined what happened yesterday is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by NASCAR.
Richard Childress's actions were not appropriate and fell far short of the standard we expect of owners in this sport. We have met with Childress this morning and made our position very clear to him. Further, we expect he will make it clear to all in his organization to ensure this situation does not escalate any further. We will announce our actions regarding this incident Monday.
Kyle Busch remains on probation with NASCAR and we continue to watch his actions carefully. However, we have determined that Kyle's involvement in this incident does not violate his probation and no further action is required.
NASCAR decided against immediately ejecting Richard Childress from Kansas Speedway, on the grounds that there was no one else from RCR senior management on hand to take over the team's operations for the Sunday Sprint Cup race.
"[Ejecting Childress] was considered in this case," admitted NASCAR president Mike Helton. "What will happen today is that Richard will operate as the owner of Richard Childress Racing with some restrictions attached to it as to where he may go or not go.
"We decided to let Richard stay because there does need to be leadership of an organization, which historically we rely on crew chiefs, but since both organizations have multiple teams and we decided that it would be better if there was an authority from the team and there's not a second-level authority present this weekend for his organization. Joe Gibbs is here from Joe Gibbs Racing and we chose to allow Richard to participate today."
It's thought that Childress may be restricted to the team's hauler and not allowed into the pit lane or garage area for the remainder of the weekend, but when asked Helton said that the restrictions for today will be "territorial" and that the details are being worked out.
NASCAR are clearly concerned that simmering hostilities between the RCR and JGR camps may explode again into open confrontation and retaliation during the afternoon Cup race.
"The biggest topic today [is] to be sure that today's event went on correctly and safely for everybody involved and [for] both the Richard Childress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing organisations. We've been clear to them that both Joe Gibbs and Richard Childress meet with their teams to be sure that nobody from their organisation felt like that there was anything that needed to be done on their side."
In the press conference, Helton said repeatedly that on the evidence currently before them, NASCAR had come to the firm decision that Kyle Busch had done nothing to instigate the altercation or been the aggressor, either with the on-track bump with Coulter or subsequently in the garage area with Childress himself.
"In our opinion Kyle Busch did not violate his probation," Helton said, confirming that he did not foresee any penalties being handed to the controversial driver. "We've concluded that the driver of the 18 truck, Kyle Busch, did nothing to provoke or cause the reactions, in our opinion, would have violated probation, did nothing that warranted the actions of Richard Childress."
He did however go on to add: "Unless you know something that we don't know, I'm not sure what he did in the garage that would have been in question ... I'm not going to go through all the details. We haven't seen anything that indicated that Kyle violated his probation on the race track yesterday or in the garage area."
Helton insisted that Busch's case had been reviewed as a general member of NASCAR and that no differentiation had been made based on his driver and owner roles and not in a wider context of ongoing rows between Busch and Childress' teams. "Our authority is around NASCAR members, and that's the way we look at them - as NASCAR members. Certainly we investigate to get the totality of everything we need to make the decision, but the reaction from NASCAR is focused on what happened yesterday."
The official NASCAR statement followed a parade of people into the NASCAR hauler on Sunday morning, including Childress, Busch and Joe Gibbs, for whom Busch drives in the Sprint Cup series. None of them had any comment either entering or leaving the hauler - Gibbs said simply "I don't think right now is the time to be talking about this" - and Childress himself left via the back exit to avoid reporters.
When a reporter did catch up to him later in the morning and asked whether Childress would be at the track for the rest of the day, all the team owner could do was shrug and say "I hope."
The two came to blows after the end of the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway. Kyle Busch, driving the #18 truck for his Kyle Busch Motorsports team, had not been happy with the way that Richard Childress Racing rookie Joey Coulter overtook him for fifth place on the final lap and gave him a bump on the cool-down lap after the chequered flag.
Childress showed up at the Busch garage 30 minutes after the end of the race having reportedly taken offence at Busch's comments, then handed his watch to his grandson Austin Dillon (another competitor in the Truck series) - and allegedly got the 26-year-old Busch in a headlock before proceeding to hit him multiple times in the face. Busch fell to the ground and curled up "in a defensive position" but when he tried to get up, the 65-year-old Childress again tried to hit him.
When he showed up for his turn in the NASCAR hauler this morning, Busch was pointedly not wearing sunglasses to make sure there was no suggestion that he was sporting a black eye from the incident.
NASCAR is now trying hard to make sure that focus returns to the Sprint Cup STP 400 race in hand on Sunday afternoon and is not overshadowed by Saturday night's explosive events: "We'll focus on today's race now and then quickly, maybe more quickly than normal, come back with our reaction as it relates to NASCAR member Richard Childress," said Helton.
NASCAR usually meets on the Tuesday after a Cup race to decide on any adjudications or penalties arising from a race weekend.
Online reaction over the altercation has been polarized, as is usually the case concerning Kyle Busch. Many social media comments were mocking Busch for getting beaten up by a 65-year-old grandfather, but since the only other course was to take a swing at a pensioner and a NASCAR sporting legend it's probably best he decided not to retaliate in the heat of the moment - or NASCAR's judgement may have been very different and seen him suspended, losing points - or perhaps getting fired by Joe Gibbs altogether.
Gibbs is still to announce what if any team penalties may apply to Busch for his recent 128mph speeding incident