Let me go ahead and get this out of the way: From a depravity standpoint there is no comparison between Joe Gibbs giving Kyle Busch too much leash and what Joe Paterno let happen at Penn State.
But from the standpoint of legendary czars letting inaction and hypocrisy kill their careers, it’s practically the same story.
Gibbs, like Paterno, always promoted the right things. For Paterno it was a college library, for Gibbs a savior. But meanwhile both saw destructive behavior and looked the other way. We all know where Paterno failed. But don’t forget that that Gibbs failed to act as Busch continued to put lives in danger both on and off the track.
Busch drove 128 miles an hour in a 45 mile per hour zone on May 24, 17 days after he sent Kevin Harvick’s unattended car down pit road at Darlington, which could have done untold damage.
It was time for Gibbs to act at that point. How could have Busch been at anything other than zero-tolerance after the double middle-finger salute to a NASCAR official at Texas last year? The fact that sponsors like M&Ms and Z-Line Designs are finally distancing themselves — at least temporarily — is a clear signal to Gibbs: “You had your chance to nip this in the bud. Now, since you didn’t act, we have to.”
That’s why Z-Line Designs has asked for Denny Hamlin to be behind the wheel for the Nationwide finale at Homestead. That’s why Busch will have Interstate Batteries on the car for the final two Cup races while M&Ms takes a break.
Remember, this isn’t the first time Gibbs has preached purity, then ignored his responsibilities. He never really disciplined Tony Stewart, who in his final year with Gibbs had matured so much that he was roughing up a USAC official when he didn’t get his way. Even after Busch’s lack of control got to the point of him using his truck as a loaded gun against Ron Hornaday at Texas, Gibbs was downright mousy. In an interview with ESPN’s Dr. Jerry Punch, he merely said he trusted NASCAR’s judgment. Gibbs wouldn’t even give a definitive answer when Punch asked something as simple as whether Busch made a mistake? Some leadership!
Gibbs’ lack of action drips with arrogance. Jack Roush is about to win the Nationwide title and could win the Cup title with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Carl Edwards, respectively. Yet, he has no sponsorship for Cup champ and Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth and has run Nationwide races with three unsponsored cars at times this year. In that kind of atmosphere, did Gibbs think he was above reproach just because he penned a religious book called “Game Plan for Life”?
Seems like Gibbs should have called an audible when it came to Busch long ago. Now, it might be too late.
Late Thursday M&Ms announced they would stay off the No. 18 car for the rest of the season and come back next year “with the expectation that no future incident take[s] place.”
Considering Gibbs’ lack of leadership, it’s only a matter of time.