Kyle Busch speaks to members of the media before practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
AVONDALE, Ariz. - When Team owner Joe Gibbs and driver Kyle Busch took questions from reporters Friday morning at Phoenix International Raceway, we didn't learn much that we didn't already know.
Busch is still sorry for wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution in last Friday's Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
"I'm here today to basically say that I apologize to everyone involved in this ordeal," Busch said. "Joe has been a huge supporter of mine through all of this and I can't say enough about him, all the folks at JGR, all the guys on my M&M's team and we're here to say we want to learn from this."
Gibbs is still supportive of Busch, as he should be. Despite a litany of major and minor offenses throughout his tenure at JGR, Busch wins races, brings excitement to the sport and adds to the bottom line.
"What I've chosen to do, I want to support Kyle and I feel like this could have a positive impact on Kyle and I'm committed to him as a person," Gibbs said. "I like him-we've gone through a lot together. As far as us at Joe Gibbs Racing, we're looking forward to a long relationship."
Busch will be driving the No. 18 Toyota in the final two races of the season, with Interstate Batteries-not M&M's-on the hood of the car. Mars Inc., M&M's parent company, has opted out of the final two races.
"They've been great partners for us, and the four years we've been together, we've developed strong relationships and I think a great partnership," Gibbs said. "The actions last week don't reflect Mars' values. As a consequence, they've asked Kyle not to drive the M&M's car in 2011-for the (last) two races this year."
There are internal penalties levied against Busch in addition to those imposed by NASCAR, which parked Busch for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at Texas and subsequently fined him $50,000 and placed him on probation for the rest of the season.
"There will be other financial penalties and stuff that we're working through, and we'll continue to do that as we go forward through this process," Gibbs said. "I think for me personally, I just want to make a point that when you're put in a situation like this, you really can make one of two decisions. I think the one (firing Busch) would have been devastating, and I think really discouraging for everybody associated with Kyle-everybody around him and for the sport."
We don't know whether the JGR sanctions include forcing Busch to pay for the lost revenue from M&M's for the final two races or whether Interstate Batteries is picking up the tab-because Gibbs wouldn't tell us.
"I think all of that is an internal thing that we're not going to discuss, but I think we've taken appropriate actions there," Gibbs said. "We've all talked it over, and we know what we're going to do. That's not something I think we need to discuss."
We do know that Busch won't drive the No. 18 Camry in the Nationwide Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Rather than being a demand by sponsor Z-Line Designs, as was reported, Gibbs said that was more of a team decision.
"I think first of all, on the Z-Line discussion, we kind of felt like as a race team I'd take the responsibility for a lot of that, because we were kind of wanting to go for the next two races to let Kyle focus on Cup," Gibbs said.
M&M's will continue to sponsor Busch next season but with expectations that Busch will control his temper, on and off the racetrack. Gibbs said there had been no discussion within the organization about moving sponsors from one driver to another.
"Like we said, in 2012, I think Mars, Kyle, all of us at our race team want to be together and moving forward," Gibbs said. "There's been no discussion about that."
Busch says he wants to learn, grow and mature from his loss of control and subsequent punishment.
"Yeah, there's been a lot of upset people, and that's to be understood for the actions that I made-and I made (the) decision," Busch said. "But, like I said, it's certainly a way to learn from, to understand, to grow and to move on."
We won't know for quite a while whether he can or will.