It began, as a good soap opera drama does, with the arrival of a mysterious package.
On Thursday afternoon, Kyle Busch sat down at a Charlotte Motor Speedway press conference only to have a FedEx package delivered to him. FedEx, of course, is the sponsor of Denny Hamlin, who may well have cost Kyle a shot at a million dollars in last weekend's All-Star Race.
The FedEx package included M&Ms and a pair of boxing gloves, and Kyle was not amused.
He also didn't hold back on his take on the race. Five days haven't soothed the anger; losing a shot at a million bucks will do that to you. "It surprised me," Kyle said. "I wouldn't have expected my teammate to have raced me that way, but he's the leader and he's got the race track and I now understand that.''
That "I now understand that" is the key line in that whole quote. In other words, Kyle is saying that he understands now how Denny's going to race with the lead. And since these two are likely to be dueling for leads for the rest of the year, this could have a significant impact on both teams' Cup hopes.
Kyle added that he didn't want anything from this race festering, that he took the fight straight to Hamlin in order to get it out in the open immediately. "I took it [upon] myself to go straight to Denny Hamlin's trailer because I wanted to make sure it was handled right then and there," he said. "The Hendrick dispute [between Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson] went a few weeks. They didn't get it taken care right away. It wasn't that Joe Gibbs pulled us together and had to mediate anything. I walked myself into his hauler and waited for the race to be over. ... I wanted to get it done and get over right there and move forward. We did. His reception was it's the All-Star race and it's every man for himself. I wasn't under that impression going into that race that's why I was surprised at what happened."
Ah, but what about that line Kyle shouted over the radio about wanting to "kill" Hamlin? No big deal, Kyle says: "Do I regret saying what I said over the radio? Absolutely not. It was the heat of the moment. That's who I am. That's my expression. I'm not going to be sorry for what I say. I was frustrated. It was a saying that is said a lot and take it for what it's worth. It wasn't joking but it wasn't going to happen." Indeed, we'd hope that Kyle was not actually planning to murder Denny.
Kyle gets plenty of grief for his attitude, but this is a case where I'm thinking he's justified. If he's thinking there's a team-first set of rules in the All-Star race and Hamlin is looking out for nobody but the #11, you can see why that might be a tad frustrating. Kyle's like Vic Mackey in "The Shield"; he's griped and snarled for so long that even when he tries to play nice, nobody believes him.
Still, I'd love to see what happens if these two are 1-2 at Homestead with only a few laps remaining, wouldn't you?