Upon his return from "parked" status at Phoenix International Raceway, Kyle Busch showed why both his sponsors and team have been excessively patient with his troublesome actions.
He was relegated to start from 34th place due to having to replace his engine during the race weekend, as per NASCAR regulations.
In 183 laps, a bit more than half-way through the race, he had worked his way up 31 spots to third. Unfortunately for him, his engine blew up and he lost that spot by lap 187.
Very few drivers are capable of this. He was also able to translate a 25th place qualification into a second place at the Chase race in Charlotte.
Busch can get results, even when he has to start from behind. Yet, his intentional wrecking of Ron Hornaday under caution in Texas finally unleashed the prelude to the final straw.
He is down to his last strike with three large entities: NASCAR itself, Mars/M&Ms and Joe Gibbs Racing.
Although Mars/M&Ms did withdraw its sponsorship for the last two races of 2011 as a penalty, it is still officially committed to Busch in 2012.
What if, however, Busch were to lose this sponsorship, whether through a moment of insanity at Homestead Miami or an off-track incident, such as a DUI, etc.?
Here are some possible scenarios. It is necessary to keep in mind that some are based on simply losing Mars/M&Ms' primary sponsorship, while a few combine both that an an indefinite suspension from NASCAR.
If he were merely to lose his primary sponsor, it is a distinct possibility that Kyle Busch could run only in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.
He has his own racing team, Busch Motorsports, in the Truck series. Surely, this operation would be hurt because M&Ms still funds this, but it could likely continue.
Z-Line Designs would have a tough call to make in the Nationwide series, but Busch delivered six of his seven Nationwide victories in 2011 under this sponsor. It would be difficult for them to just throw that kind of exposure away.
The bigger problem for Busch in the Nationwide Series would be whether or not Joe Gibbs Racing would let him stay on as the primary driver.
If dropped by Mars/M&Ms and Joe Gibbs Racing, the most likely course of action for Shrub would be to drive as an owner for his self-owned team only in the Camping World Truck Series.
This is not to say that Kyle Busch Motorsports could not find some last minute funding to get a car in the Nationwide Series. However, as late in the season as it is, finding the much higher level of funding to support his own Sprint Cup car could be well nigh impossible.
This is pretty simple: If this incident and the repercussions that resulted in the incident do not sober Busch up and make him second guess any of his emotions, nothing will.
Frankly, if he cannot grow stronger and wiser from this incident, he will be out of NASCAR, in any capacity, before his 28th birthday.
He is no stranger to controversy and contention. However, the week between Texas and Phoenix was probably the most arduous of his young life. He is certainly not a stranger to booing and rejection from fans.
On the other hand, the outright condemnation and disappointment that were laid on him should and must alter his outlook and demeanor if he wants to realistically continue competing in a profession that he is so obviously gifted.
Kyle Busch is no stranger to working in a garage and turning wrenches. His dad taught him well and he served as a crew chief for his brother Kurt at a young age in youth racing.
He is one of the best relayers of information concerning imperfections within his car and what may need to be fixed. He has the potential to be an outstanding crew chief.
If the situation worsens for him, this may indeed become a strong prospect.
Kasey Kahne closed out (minus one race) his affiliation with Red Bull Racing in style by winning the ninth Chase race at Phoenix. No matter what, he is contractually obligated to move to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 and replace Mark Martin.
Red Bull Racing has announced its withdrawal from the NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2012.
Somehow, some way, it seems logical that it could be coaxed back to NASCAR if Kyle Busch was dropped by his sponsor/team and became, in effect, a free agent.
Goodness knows, it has the funds the to divert from its success in Formula One this year! 'Rowdy" was once considered to drive for a United States Formula One team; this could be an opportunity when few others present themselves.
Also, and this is exponentially less likely, but what if Michael Waltrip Racing decided to go for broke and add a fourth car to its stable? That is in the realm of almost pure fantasy, but it would be interesting!
This is almost the most dire of dire situations. If Kyle loses his sponsors, team and somehow cannot find enough funding, he could be forced to watch NASCAR in 2012 on Fox, TNT and ESPN.
This is, by far, the least likely of all scenarios presented in the slideshow.
The worst part of this scenario is that he would still be technically allowed to compete in NASCAR, but was simply unable achieve a business deal.
The only action that could feasibly lead to this scenario would be a serious infraction in the offseason. An action so egregious that it could not be interpreted as anything more than gross irresponsibility: for example, a DUI/DWI, a second excessive speeding violation under probation or a case of domestic assault.
In other words, if Kyle's private life runs criminally astray in the final months of 2011, he will be parked in 2012.
That is almost unfathomable, but would you be completely surprised if that kind of drama ensued in the next two months?
Kyle is officially on probation until Dec. 31, 2011. But is he? Any major infraction in the beginning of 2012 will raise eyebrows and questions as to whether he should be kicked out of NASCAR.
If the scene pictured here is repeated, it seems likely that NASCAR will have no choice but to take this most extreme of actions.
NASCAR is certainly better with Kyle Busch a participating member of it. Right now, he walks a slippery slope. He has no room for error in terms of NASCAR racing and off-track actions.
It would be sad to see him go, but, given the current circumstances, this cannot be ruled out.