CONCORD, N.C. — For the moment, Kyle Busch is saying goodbye to the NASCAR Truck Series.
Four months after getting suspended for wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. at a Truck Series race at Texas, the Sprint Cup star announced he won’t be running the series at all in 2012.
Busch, who was forced to sit out one Cup Series race because of the incident, said he is only scheduled to compete in 15 Nationwide Series races and a half-dozen special short track races.
It’s a significant reduction for Busch, who ran 42 events outside the Cup Series last season.
“I’m definitely going to miss it,” Busch said at the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour. “I’ve always had a great time running over there. Unfortunately, I’m going to take a step back and not do it this season.”
The 26-year-old Las Vegas native has found great success by running all three NASCAR national series. Last season, he won 18 races (four Cup Series, eight Nationwide and six Truck Series). However, the suspension from the Texas race meant he finished 12th, dead last among the Chase contenders, in the Sprint Cup point standings.
He hopes turning more focus more towards the Cup Series will mean a better result at the end of the season.
“I think running less races will be a conditioning tool,” said Busch, a 23-time Cup Series winner. “I’ve been working hard in the offseason, getting in shape, and running less races should help that. I want to be more focused and trying to operate more on the same level as (crew chief) Dave (Rogers).”
Busch, who led last year’s Cup Series point standings at the end of the 26-race regular season, flopped during the 10-race “Chase for the Championship.”
It marked the fourth straight year he finished eighth or lower in the final points.
“It’s really frustrating,” he said. “We would love to run like we have in the first 26 races and translate that into the final 10. We had various incidents. We got wrecked out at Talladega and Martinsville, and esentially we were eliminated. When that happened we’d lost our whole year.”
Worse than dropping in the points, the Texas crash nearly cost Busch his ride with Joe Gibbs Racing. The team owner and sponsor M&M’s had several meetings with the young driver, who came to understand his actions affected all those around him.
“We went through a lot the weeks after the Texas incident,” he said. “The biggest thing you learn is you try to learn from your mistakes and move on.
“I understand a little more of the ramifactions behind it. It not only affects me, it affects my team, the whole Joe Gibbs Racing organization, and the people with the sponsor brands.”
While Busch admits he will miss racing in the Truck Series, he said putting someone else in his No. 18 Toyota has been a longtime goal.
“I’ve always wanted to build Kyle Busch Motorsports into a place where doesn’t need Kyle Busch to drive to sustain itself,” he said. “That’s where I want to grow with it. I hadn’t been able to do that because of sponsorship. They haven’t stepped up and said I want to try somebody else behind the wheel. But, I’ve been all for it.”
The team will compete this season with driver Jason Leffler on at least a part-time basis. As for himself, Busch showed remorse with how this chapter of his Truck Series career ended.
“I obviously would have liked it if would have never happened, and if I could take it back, I would,” he said. “But, you’ve got to move on and move forward. The people closest to me are the utmost supportive of me. They know who I am as a person.
“It’s disappointing. It’s like when a parent sees a kid getting in trouble at school. You’re disappointed in their reaction, but you still love them and try to stay behind them.”