Winless Kyle Busch appears to be boiling over

George Diaz
Orlando Sentinel

Kyle Busch should be a Happy Man. He is rolling along, with the fourth most points in the NASCAR Cup standings, a reason to celebrate. Or not.

Instead, he is Pouty Face.

Busch has yet to win a points race despite six Top 5 finishes. It’s a disappointing look for a driver who has won nine times over the last two seasons, which includes a championship run in 2015.

But there’s more negative juju. Busch, a volatile sort over the years, seems to be at war with the world.

He ripped Goodyear tires after crashing at Daytona to start the season. He started a brawl with Joey Logano and his crew members after a wreck in Las Vegas. He threw shade at Talladega by implying it wasn’t a real race track. He was then dismissive of Austin Dillon’s victory at Charlotte in a video snippet that went viral in the NASCAR community.

These are not highly egregious offenses, but if you stitch them together they reflect badly on a man whose superb driving skills are often overshadowed by temperamental issues. Take the Charlotte example, where he could not pass Dillon in the closing laps.

He was then asked to put Dillon’s victory in perspective.

“I’m not surprised about anything,” Busch said. “Congratulations.”

And then he dropped the microphone. No more questions. Sore loser.

“There are some really funny bounces in life, especially in this motorsports world,” said Brad Keselowski, a frequent antagonist with Busch. “But your desire to win is not connected to how angry you get.

“That’s one way of expressing it, but it’s not the only way to win. So when people go out and write articles or the media comes out and says that’s a reflection of him having the most desire to win makes me want to throw up. Not only is that a terrible message to send to anyone who’s aspiring to be a part of the sport, it’s a terrible message to send to anybody in general in this world — that it’s a reflection of your desire to win.”

NASCAR also suspended yet another crew chief for Busch.

Engineer and interim crew chief Ben Beshore will miss Saturday night’s race because the No. 18 team had two unsecured lug nuts at the end of the Sonoma Raceway race over the weekend. Crew chief Adam Stevens will miss his fourth and final race this weekend for a tire rolling off Busch’s car at Dover. He returns next weekend at Kentucky.

Beshore, who was also fined $20,000, had been Stevens’ replacement. Joe Gibbs Racing says engineer Jacob Canter will crew chief for Busch at Daytona.

Busch has a chance for a reset at Daytona. He has a chance to send another message to the world by winning — or at the very least, not coming across as an ungracious loser.

Junior’s puppies

The NASCAR Nation is famous — and sometimes notorious — for giving their stars unique parting gifts. Just ask Jeff Gordon about the two ponies he got from Texas Motor Speedway a few years back.

The folks at Sonoma Raceway also dipped into the Animal Kingdom category when saying adios to Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is retiring from full-time NASCAR Cup competition after this season.

Who doesn’t love puppies?

Three of them in fact, Labrador Retrievers, with an added human touch:

The puppies — named Dale, Amy and Junior — will be trained as service dogs on Earnhardt’s behalf. They will work with children who have disabilities.

“I think it’s a great thing that the track did,” Earnhardt said. “Amy (Earnhardt, his wife) is going to love this idea and she is going to be a little sad she wasn’t here to see the dogs today, but it’s nice to know that these types of things are happening and you guys are making a difference in people’s lives.

“We really appreciate that and obviously thank the track for their investment to make this happen. It warms my heart. We do love dogs and love making a difference in kids’ lives and this is a two-fer. Pretty neat deal.”

The track collaborated with Paws As Loving Support Assistance Dogs, out of Forestville, Calif. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to enhancing the human/animal bond by providing specially trained dogs to help children with disabilities, including autism, Down syndrome and mobility impairments.

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series

Coke Zero 400

Schedule: Today, practice, 3 p.m. (NBCSN), practice, 5 p.m. (NBCSN); Friday, qualifying, 4:10 p.m. (NBCSN); Saturday, race, 7:30 p.m., NBC.

Track: Daytona International Speedway (oval, 2.5 miles), Daytona Beach, Florida

Race distance: 400 miles, 160 laps.

Defending champion: Brad Keselowski

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Firecracker 250

Schedule: Today, practice, 2 p.m., (NBCSN), practice, 4 p.m., (NBCSN); Friday, qualifying, 2:10 p.m. (NBCSN), race, 7:30 p.m., NBCSN.

Track: Daytona International Speedway (oval, 2.5 miles).

Race distance: 250 miles, 100 laps.

Defending champion: Aric Almirola