Bruton Smith called me up this morning, wanting to talk about Kyle Busch.
Smith is a Charlotte auto magnate whose Speedway Motorsports, Inc. owns Charlotte Motor Speedway and more than a half-dozen other NASCAR tracks.
Smith disagreed with my opinion – you can see it here – that Busch should be suspended by his team owner Joe Gibbs for at least one race after he was clocked in Iredell County doing 128 mph in a 45-mph zone on a public road Tuesday.
“Let the legal system run its course,” Smith said. “That’s what I’d do if he were my employee.”
We talked about that for awhile, and then about a few other things. Smith, whose son Marcus now runs the day-to-day operations at CMS, also mentioned that the NASCAR all-star race format will likely be altered for 2012. (The 2011 version, which was last Saturday, produced a fine crowd but a boring race that had Carl Edwards leading from wire-to-wire over the final 10 laps. Edwards also led at the ends of segments No.2 and 3).
“We’re going to change that format just a little bit,” Smith said. “I can’t tell you exactly what it is, because it’s not finalized. But those 10 laps at the end may grow to 15, and we will do something to make it harder for the driver who’s got the fastest car in the field to just get in front and just stay there.”
That sounded like inversion – where you put the fastest cars at the back and make them wind through traffic during some segments. Smith said it wasn’t settled for sure.
Smith also said he estimated that CMS sold about 110,000 tickets for last Saturday night’s race (there are 135,000 permanent seats at the track) and that he was hugely pleased with the crowd and the reviews for the world’s largest HDTV in its race debut. He said there would be even more race fans there for the 600.
Regarding Kyle Busch -- who Smith said he hadn’t talked to yet but planned to before Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 – Smith said: “I thought I’d call and rattle your cage a little bit, as the late Dale Earnhardt would have said… First of all, he may not have been going 128 mph – although Kyle apologized in his statement, I don’t believe he admitted to actually going that fast…. I think the punishment, whatever it is, should stay in Iredell County. Let the legal system run its course, and hopefully it won’t run amok.”
Smith noted that Busch might be “the most talented driver we’ve ever had,” as he wins regularly in all three of NASCAR’s top series. He said that if Busch were his employee he would have a long sit-down talk with him, as he felt sure Joe Gibbs would do if he hasn’t already.
Added Smith: “And then I would tell them, ‘Go and sin no more.’ I’m sure Kyle wishes that it never happened. But in different sports, you wouldn’t necessarily be suspended for something like this. Players in some stick-and-ball sports have done much worse and still played while the legal system ran its course. That’s what should happen here.”