How Joe Gibbs Saved Kyle Busch's Career After Texas Penalty

For a moment on Friday, albeit a brief one, Kyle Busch appeared to get choked up.

After a week in which Busch was punished with the modern-day equivalent of being tarred and feathered following his intentional wreck of Ron Hornaday Jr. in the Texas trucks race, one person may have saved him from the lowest point of his career.

That man was team owner Joe Gibbs.

"Was there a point in which I thought, 'Do I have a ride?' Of course there was. Yeah, I thought that," Busch said Friday in front of a room packed full of reporters at Phoenix International Raceway. "Was there a point in which Joe ever told me, 'Hey, we're looking at terminating this?' No."

It was then that Busch's voice began to waver slightly, the emotion tangible in his words.

"Joe has been there and has stuck by my side and has held my arm through this whole deal," Busch said. "I can't say enough about the man sitting next to me."

Busch has plenty of reason to feel grateful to Gibbs, the legendary NFL coach who became a championship-winning NASCAR team owner.

When it appeared Busch's future with Joe Gibbs Racing – and thus his career with a top-tier race team – was in jeopardy this week, it turned out Gibbs was fighting for the driver behind the scenes all along.

Gibbs, a devout Christian who has written a book about winning at the game of life, decided to practice what he preached. He forgave Busch and tried to help the driver through the storm, working to ensure he would have another chance.

"When you're put in a situation like this, you can really make one of two decisions," Gibbs said. "I think the one (firing Busch) would have been devastating and I think really discouraging for everybody associated with Kyle. ... What I've chosen to do, I want to support Kyle and I feel like this could have a positive impact on Kyle.

"I'm committed to him as a person. I like him; we've gone through a lot together."

M&M's, the candy brand owned by the Mars family, wasn't as forgiving of Busch's latest transgression. The company places an utmost priority on its family-friendly image, and it wanted to send a message to Busch that turning another competitor head-first into the wall out of anger was unacceptable.

We don't know yet whether or not M&M's initially wanted to bail on Busch altogether (M&M's will be back on Busch's car in 2012). But we do know the Mars family didn't want to end its relationship with Gibbs himself.

So throughout the week and all the way until late Thursday night, Gibbs and M&M's worked to figure out a solution that was acceptable to both parties.

They concluded M&M's would come off the car for the final two races of the season, replaced by longtime Gibbs supporter Interstate Batteries.

Since there's a very small chance Interstate is paying the same amount as M&M's would have, it's likely Busch is taking a hit in his wallet over the next two weeks as well.

Gibbs declined comment when asked the details of the financial agreement, but said Busch would incur "other financial penalties and stuff that we're working through."

Busch, though, is likely thankful just to still have a job. If Gibbs had decided to fire him, Busch's links to nearly all the upper-echelon NASCAR teams would have been broken.

His odds of finding a competitive ride for next season would have been slim.

And as Busch sat back and had time to reflect this week, he undoubtedly realized Gibbs was his strongest and most loyal supporter outside of his family.

If Busch ever redeems himself in the eyes of NASCAR fans, it will be years from now. He has a long way to go.

But as long as Gibbs stands by him, he at least has a chance.

"There's an opportunity for me to become a better person, to grow and learn from this," Busch said. "I'm looking forward to those days."

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