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Kyle Busch decries lack of respect among NASCAR drivers

Parker Kligerman says Kyle Busch is "100% correct" that respect has been lost between drivers given a culture change and more competitiveness due to increased parity, and a frustrated Steve Letarte doesn't disagree.

HAMPTON, Ga. — Two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch laments the lack of respect between drivers in NASCAR, saying he’s tried to talk to competitors but that hasn’t helped.

“We have completely lost any sense of respect in the garage between the drivers at all,” Busch said Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “That’s where the problem lies. Nobody gives two (expletive) about anybody else.

“It’s just a problem where everybody takes advantage of everybody as much as they can. We’re all selfish, granted. But there was an etiquette that once did live here.

“Mark (Martin) started it. Tony (Stewart) lived by it. I think Jeff (Gordon) lived by it. Bobby Labonte, Rusty (Wallace) for the most part, Dale Jarrett, for sure. It did exist. That’s gone.”

The issue of driver respect was a topic Saturday at Atlanta in light of Denny Hamlin wrecking Ross Chastain on the final lap last weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR penalized Hamlin 25 points and $50,000 only after Hamlin admitted on his podcast that he did hit Chastain intentionally after past issues with Chastain.

Busch referenced Hamlin and Chastain when asked Saturday if he understood the difference between hard racing and taking someone out.

“No,” Busch said, “because last year at Gateway was a pretty good representation of cat and mouse and nothing was done. What do we do in those situations?”

Chastain’s contact wrecked Hamlin at Gateway last June. About 15 laps later, Hamlin drove Chastain down to the apron on the backstretch before Chastain passed. Hamlin later impeded Chastain again. It got to the point that NASCAR instructed the team to tell Hamlin he had made his point.

Asked what he would like seen done in such situations, Bush said: “Drivers to be ethical and take responsibility for their action and race and race hard.

“If you make a mistake, OK fine, I get it. When you intentionally drive over somebody because they made a move on you or something you didn’t like, then you get punched in the face afterward.”

Busch also expressed displeasure Saturday with Chandler Smith, noting their contact on the last lap at Phoenix while racing for third in the Xfinity Series race. Smith called the contact a “racing incident” after the race.

“I’ve tried to talk to guys,” Busch said. “They don’t listen, so I’ve lost interest in talking to them. I had a teammate that I talked to, a kid that raced for me two years in the Truck Series real recently who I got into it last week with and tried to talk to him about those exact same issues. Lo and behold, it happened to me three races into a new year somewhere else, so I’m done taking to them.”

Busch said two conversations with Tony Stewart earlier in his career proved impactful.

“I think the biggest thing was the impact it had for me was him taking the time and doing that, but also giving him the respect and understanding that he’s been around for a long time and raced against a lot of those really great drivers and was a two-time champion at that time,” Busch said. “So I gave him that respect and we rarely had issues since then. I think that says it.”

Busch said one solution to the issues on track would be to do in NASCAR what happens at some small tracks.

Involved in an incident, the driver gets sent to the back of the pack. It’s what happens in the racing that Busch’s son, Brexton, does.

“He already knows that he can’t run somebody over because he gets sent to the back,” Busch said of his son. “I think that’s something else, there’s no repercussions for running somebody over. If you want to do that, you get sent to the back, you get held a lap, something. But if you spin somebody out — and I’m guilty of it, I spun somebody out for the lead before or the win before or something like that on accident racing —but if it happens, then you get sent to the back.

“Caution comes out, you go to the back. There’s repercussions for that right now. That’s the short track adage and how these kids learn when they’re growing up. Maybe we need to implement that here.”