BY LARRY HAMEL
For the Sun-Times
Kyle Busch is no shrinking violet, so it was fitting that he called out NASCAR on its “restart” controversy, the hot gearhead topic on the Chase’s media day earlier this week.
The latest flap regarding restarts came in Richmond, the last of 26 “regular-season” events before NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup begins on Sunday (2 p.m., NBCSN) at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet. Rival team owner Roger Penske blasted the sanctioning body for not calling a penalty on race winner Matt Kenseth on the final restart.
The oft-disciplined Busch, 31, minced no words on the restart issue.
“I’m not comfortable one bit with the way [NASCAR] is officiating it,” said Busch, who drives the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. “I think they have to step in. It’s gone too long. It’s really stupid the way the restarts are being handled by the drivers. I always have it in the back of my mind that I’m going to get black-flagged for a bad restart or a poor choice in how I handle a restart.
“Some of these other guys, I don’t think they give a crap. They just do whatever the heck they want and get away with it. You can’t have one guy being scared of it and another guy taking advantage of not being afraid of it. You have to start having everybody being afraid of NASCAR stepping in.
“I have taken restarts and have come to the conclusion myself that I can’t give NASCAR that opportunity to penalize me. I have to do it by the book and make it right, so I don’t put it in their hands to make a bad choice, because they are really good at making bad choices for me.”
The easiest solution, Busch said, would be for NASCAR “to police it more. Black flag guys, sure. If somebody jumps the start, post ‘em, who cares?”
Busch, a four-time winner, is seeded second on the Chase grid, despite missing the first 11 Sprint Cup races with a broken right leg.
Penske Racing’s Joey Logano is the baby of the 16 Chase-eligible drivers, but he quickly learned to be wary of Talladega Superspeedway, the 2.66-mile Alabama tri-oval on which the “Big One” lurks on every lap.
“Every racetrack when I look at the Chase coming up, I feel good about all of them,” said Logano, 25, who is seeded fourth in the reset Chase grid. “If there is one that’s an unknown, it’s going to be the same answer you get from every other driver — Talladega. Talladega is a crap-shoot race that quite possibly will take out a guy that may have won the championship.
“So that makes [the races in] Charlotte and Kansas quite possibly the two most important of the Chase, in that you have to have to set yourself up good going into Talladega, because you can’t bank on having a good finish there. There is a group of cars that aren’t very good there no matter what, but you always have a very high likelihood of crashing. It’s never fun to strap into a car thinking that way, but it’s just the way it is.”
The race at Talladega (Oct. 25) is the last in the Contender Round, which trims the Chase field from 12 to 8.
Similar to his present starting spot on the Chase grid (14th), veteran Ryan Newman started near the back of the pack (11th) in 2014. He bettered his position in every race before finishing second overall behind Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick.
“My approach to the Chase last year was to win every race, and we didn’t win any of them, but we came really close,” said the Richard Childress Racing driver, who went winless through the ’15 regular season. “We’ll take the same approach this year.”
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