The Frontstretch: Pace Laps: Busch's Breakdown, Bassett's Busted, and Bye-Bye Bernard? by Frontstretch Staff -- Monday June 4, 2012

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Did you see all of the race action this weekend? Or, like a lot of busy fans, did you miss a late-night adventure, a Friday controversy, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch during the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed for the coming week no matter what series you might have missed, all in this week’s edition of Pace Laps!

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Will Busch Force NASCAR’s Hand on Probation? Will this week be the one where we find out if the word “probation” comes with any teeth attached? It could prove to be, as Kurt Busch, slapped with that penalty for a postrace pit road incident at Darlington, was called to the NASCAR hauler on Sunday morning following a postrace interview on Saturday when Busch cursed and made a veiled threat to Sporting News reporter Bob Pockrass. Pockrass asked if being on probation had impacted the way he raced — a legitimate question after Busch traded barbs with Justin Allgaier during and after the 5-Hour Energy 200 on Saturday. Busch, whose comments on the situation had already included a not-so-veiled shot at the sanctioning body, had said, “He thinks we purposely hit him and so he drove like a you-know-what all day and [tried] to door us and try to do stupid things out on the track. I’m on probation, so I can’t even pick my nose the right way.”

When asked by Pockrass, as a follow-up if he had raced differently because of his probationary status, Busch snapped, “It [being on probation] refrains me from not beating the (expletive) out of you right now because you ask me stupid questions. But since I’m on probation, I suppose that’s improper to say as well.” (Click here for a full video of Saturday’s incident) Unfortunately for Busch, this media run-in isn’t his first; the driver lost his seat at Penske Racing, at least in part due to a similar tirade against ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch last year. NASCAR determined at that time that the tirade was serious enough to violate Section 12-1 of the NASCAR rulebook (actions detrimental to stock car racing – inappropriate hand gesture; abusive language), and fined Busch $50,000.

An angry tirade at a reporter is one reason Kurt Busch is no longer wearing this uniform. Will his latest outburst cost him a penalty from NASCAR?

This time marks the first one in recent years, and perhaps the most serious that a driver has tested NASCAR’s tolerance while already on probation, though several others have had repeat incidents once the penalty was ended. If this incident is considered a violation, further fines, points penalties, or even a suspension would be on the list of consequences. All eyes will be on NASCAR Tuesday as a message, and possible consequences will be handed down to show that this penalty either means zero tolerance… or not. –Amy Henderson

Izod IndyCar Series: Owners Pushing for a Change at the Top The IZOD IndyCar Series was basking in the glow of a successful Indianapolis 500 this week. But then… Twitter happened. It was IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard himself who tweeted on Tuesday #INDYCAR @indycar it is true that an owner is calling others trying to get me fired. I have had several owners confirm this. disappointing.

Bernard’s tweet seemed to shift the focus off building on the momentum the series gained at Indy, rolling towards a sold out event at Belle Isle and onto politics instead. In fact, it even overshadows the two-hour red flag in Detroit as chunks of the racing surface came up and had to be repaired (for the complete story on the Belle Isle Grand Prix, check out our IndyCar race report) as the big story this week. The move was confusing to some in the series, especially after such a strong marquee event. There have been some complaints from team owners, though, most notably about higher chassis costs than teams were told to budget for, and also concerning an adjustment to the single turbocharger configuration used by Honda that Chevrolet protested. That manufacturer claims they were left out of discussions about the change. However, Bernard had previously asked that teams not go to the media with these complaints, instead asking that they be worked out within the series.

Talk about breaking your own rules; Bernard, all of a sudden has pulled a 180 and posted about it on Twitter. After the tweet, Speed.com reported that IndyCar founder Tony George and team owners Mario and Michael Andretti, John Barnes, and Kevin Kalkhoven were pushing for the change. However, Mario Andretti says he has spoken to Bernard and told him it was hearsay.

Team owner Roger Penske commented that he prefers that the focus be on racing instead, commenting, “I’m not in favor of making a change in the middle of the season. There are things I’ve been upset about — the turbocharger, for example — but I moved on. It’s time for all of us to focus on racing and getting on the same page.” That’s easier said than done; after Belle Isle, rife with track issues the controversy is sure to intensify. Will Bernard weather the storm or be blown out of town? The answer may come as soon as just a few weeks. –Toni Montgomery

NASCAR Nationwide Series: Title Contenders Or Could Haves, Would Haves, Should Haves… The good news for Richard Childress Racing? They left Dover with the points lead and with three cars that finished in the top 10 (both Dillon brothers and new point leader Elliott Sadler). The bad news? Even though they were able to cash in on the self-induced troubles of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., the fact remains that the No. 6 car was faster than the Nos. 2, 3 and 33 on Saturday.

Despite the recent maladies striking the defending champs, Roush Fenway Racing is consistently putting top 5 cars on the track and have proven to be one of only a handful of entries capable of racing with the JGR Toyotas. That two-car tandem is working wonders; right now, they’re close to duplicating a ridiculous stretch of Victory Lane visits in 2008-09, before the Nationwide COT came into play. The same can’t be said for Richard Childress’ Chevrolets, which have been consistent top-10 finishers but on Saturday at Dover were powerless to drive their way through traffic the way Logano’s winning Toyota (and Stenhouse’s Ford briefly) was.

To see Ty Dillon’s debut go so well, Sadler take the lead and Austin Dillon move into title contention over the course of 200 miles at Dover had to be a breath of fresh air for the organization in their return to Nationwide racing. That being said, with a stretch of “Ford favorite” events ahead – including Roush’s unofficial home track at Michigan – RCR is going to have close the equipment gap fast if they want this lead to stick. – Bryan Davis Keith

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Ty Dillon Continues to be Rookie to Watch Before the checkered flag flew over the Lucas Oil 200 on Friday afternoon, Ty Dillon and the late Ricky Hendrick were tied for the best-ever start by a rookie with five top-10 finishes to open the year. But all of that changed when Dillon brought his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet home in sixth, claiming the record as his alone. With that best start for a freshman, the 20-year-old has a stronghold on the Rookie of the Year standings with his closest active competitor more than 30 points back. (Author’s Note: John King sits second but no longer has a ride; his position will drop with each race he misses.) And if that’s not enough, he sits within striking distance of the championship points lead, just 13 points behind leader Justin Lofton.

To put the younger Dillon brother’s performance in perspective, let’s compare how Ty and reigning CWTS champion Austin Dillon opened their rookie seasons, both driving Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 truck. Austin’s 2010 season started with finishes of 26th, 10th, 16th, 14th, sixth, and 21st in the first six races, compared with Ty’s ninth, second, eighth, ninth, 10th, and sixth. Right away, you can see where Ty has outperformed his older brother already, and that has plenty to do with starting positions and the importance of track position in the Truck Series. Ty has started no worse than 12th this year, including four starts inside the top 5. Whether the forward progression will continue remains to be seen; however, it’s become very clear that racing is in the Dillon brothers’ blood. There is definitely a strong future for Ty, not only in the Truck Series, but beyond as he progresses through Nationwide and eventually to Cup. –Beth Lunkenheimer

Grand-Am: Series to Expand to Three Divisions On Friday, Grand Am announced it will be adding a new class to the series. Slated to begin with the 2013 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, the “GX” class will encompass cars from different manufacturers, including cars running technologies not currently in Grand Am, such as alternative fuels, hybrid powertrains, and turbochargers. While participating companies have not been announced, multiple entries are expected in the near future.

“When there are manufacturers looking to compete, we need to find a model that works to include them in the Rolex Series,” Grand-Am President and CEO Ed Bennett said. “It’s good for the fans, providing another whole group of exciting cars they can relate to. And the fact that the GX class will get to debut at the Rolex 24 just adds to the anticipation and excitement.”

There’s no hint about which particular automobile companies are being targeted; however, don’t expect to be kept in the dark for long. What is even more intriguing, though, beyond the participants are the different technologies that may be introduced. Whether the new class will take off as much as the Daytona Prototype and GT classes remain to be seen, though. The big question mark, and one that won’t be answered until 2013 is whether the GX class can be competitive enough to not become a hindrance to the other two classes already on the track. -Rick Lunkenheimer

Short Tracks: Two Strikes And You’re Out? Four weeks ago, it was Kingsport Speedway and a header that didn’t feel right. This week, it was a rear brake blower that, at least according to the officials, is not allowed. Whatever the case may be, for the second time in as many races, Ronnie Bassett, Jr. has been stripped of a UARA win. Bassett won two of the first three races to open the season, finished second in the third, and was poised to run away with the series championship. As a result, when his team rolled into Kingsport, they were supremely confident that the season-long title was within their reach; but the postrace inspection after they once again took the checkered flag was extensive and eventually, the cylinder head of the winning car’s engine was declared illegal because it didn’t feel right. Ford Racing Technology upheld the belief of the inspectors on the subsequent appeal, and Bassett’s win was officially thrown out.

After that incident, Bassett’s team purchased new engines, had them certified by Ford, and proceeded to Anderson to get back on the winning track. A year ago, Bassett scored his first win at Anderson in this race, only to have the win thrown out on an engine violation. He returned last fall and dominated the race once again, making Anderson seem like an ideal place for him to restart his pursuit of the series title. Toward that end, Bassett did everything in his power by taking the checkered flag first. But then came the second blow of the season when his car failed postrace inspection over the rear brake blower. The technical inspection violation awarded the victory to Scott Turlington, although even Turlington’s crew chief went to the UARA trailer to argue that the decision was bogus. It will be interesting to see where this all shakes out in the next week or two and whether the Bassett family will continue supporting this series after having a second win taken away this year. -Mike Neff

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Lydia
06/04/2012 09:58 AM
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Stop stop stop! The media needs to stop with the Kurt crap! It seems to go in cycles….Stewart, Harvick, Kyle, Kurt…. It seems if a
reporter sees a chink in the
armor..it’s game on! I know Kurt has a big mouth..I cringe
at times… But as far as I am
concerned if you go into the
lions den after the lion loses
it’s prey..you deserve to get a
big chunk taken out of your
backside! Either quit egging
on the drivers you know are
on the edge … Or take the
verbal abuse..which at times is very deserved..and move on!! Better yet..just stick to interviewing 5 Time in his clown wig and see how many fans read your columns! Quit whining and running to NASCAR…it’s really getting old!

conelly
06/04/2012 10:41 AM
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I guess when you wags drum the Busch brothers out of racing, we will have to hear you all drone over how Dale Jr. is just about to end his losing streak of “who cares how many” races, as if it is ever going to happen. You want excitement in drivers, then when they don’t act like robots, you bait them into anger.

Bill B
06/04/2012 12:19 PM
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Lydia,
So you are comparing Busch to a wild animal? Funny, I thought humans were supposed to have the ability to be rational and have capabilities to control their actions that wild animals don’t.
So by your reasoning, if you walk in the path of a convicted killer (let’s say Charlie Manson) it’s your fault because you know he’s a convicted killer and the killer is just being himself.

Just want to make sure I understand your logic.

Also, the other drivers that exhibit more human qualities face the same trials and tribulations (look at Gordon’s luck this year) yet, somehow by some unknown phenomenon, they act like adults (most of the time). Go figure.

babydufus
06/04/2012 12:35 PM
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i whole heartedly agree with Lydia and Conelly. This particular confrontation seems as if it’s presented by most of the media without some of the context just like last year. This time Kurt seemed to feel that another driver was playing him and he had his hands tied by nascar. The media know that if kurt’s level of frustration is high enough, he’s liable to blow up and yield a story. Plus, if you’ve ever listened to sirius’s coverage of friday driver press events you know that Pockrass is no dummy when it comes to being passive aggressive or asking challenging or inflammatory questions in a polite and professional manner. As for kurt, Heck even last year’s tirade was presented without a lot of context. A frustrated driver known to be hot head is taken out of the race by yet another equipment failure and is made to wait and wait and wait for an interview he most likely didn’t want to give in the first place. Jerry Punch offers no apology or consolation but stands there trying to be invisible while he waits for the bozos in the truck. Kurt swore at him but was more clearly mad at the situation… big deal. Ok, with more context he’s still a jerk but maybe he’s only a jerk with a small letter j as opposed to a capital J. It’s no excuse for poor behavior but with more of the context it certainly changes the way I look at the story.

Seems you guys missed hornish’s payback… now there’s a story brewing. This on ain’t over.

Lydia
06/04/2012 12:50 PM
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Bill…I’m assuming you know what a metaphor is? But I’ll play your silly games..
…speaking of..are you by any chance a reporter? But if it makes you feel better I will concede you are oh so right! I will turn myself into a vanilla shell of myself and be the best interview a reporter ever had!

Lydia
06/04/2012 12:56 PM
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Babydufus… That was quite the subtle payback Hornish gave Danica! Let’s hope Danica and Sam are “less than human” as Bill suggests a non vanilla driver must be….this cage fight could be better then those two “animals” Brad and Carl!!

fntasm
06/04/2012 01:07 PM
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Couldn’t agree more with Lydia as well. You know Kurt is pissed so just go piss on him somemore and see if you can make a story out of nothing.

Brian
06/04/2012 01:17 PM
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connelly makes a very good point. Take a look at the rest of the field and imagine what NASCAR would look like without “Rubberhead” and “Wild Thing”. It would be as entertaining as watching paint dry. And the key word here kids is indeed “Entertainment”. It is what herr France strives for and what rule change after rule change is made for…to make the show on Sunday watchable. If you want to see what racing was like before all the rules (and the restrictor plate) keep an eye out for replays on ESPN Classic. Watch Bobby Allison win a race by 2 laps. See cars fly up and over the catch fence, etc. The question is: would you rather watch paint dry or watch em when they were ‘just good ol boys runnin what they brung…”?

connie moore
06/04/2012 02:10 PM
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i also agree that reporters are agressive got to get that story also is it because hornish is also both so he gets off

Phil
06/04/2012 02:19 PM
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True enough, Brian. Things were way different in the old days, and probably more fun to watch. BUT.. sponsors weren’t pouring the millions of dollars into the sport for their PR benefit and drivers weren’t paid millions of dollars to answer some annoying questions. If these guys want the bucks they need to put up with what comes with it. Otherwise there are plenty of Saturday night short tracks where they won’t be bothered by those pesky reporters.

glenn
06/04/2012 02:44 PM
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Bill is right, we need more vanilla drivers (JJ)with no emotion what so ever. More of them means more empty seats in the grandstand next to me! If I wanted to watch well mannered gentlemen, I would watch something else.

Bill B
06/04/2012 04:01 PM
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There is a lot of gray area between being vanilla and being a dick to your team, peers, reporters, fans and anyone else that crosses your path.
The fact that many are condoning bad behavior in the name of “flavor” is hilarious.

Let me ask you all something, well those of you who work. When you have a bad day can you flip off your boss, kick customers in the nuts, and tell vendors to go f themselves? If so, I want your job. If not then why should sports figures? They make the big bucks, they should have to adhere to a higher standard than the rest of us schmucks that work for peanuts.
KB deserves to end up where Terrell Owens is because he carries himself in the same manner.

Lydia
06/04/2012 05:12 PM
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Bill B…..a dollar is a dollar..a job is a job….just because someone has a talent that pays more money doesn’t mean they owe anyone more then the average “smuck”! But all is fine in NASCAR land..Busch is suspended from Pocono..that should give the reporters columns for the balance of the week..Is everybody happy!?!?!

modified7
06/04/2012 06:54 PM
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I just want to say, first, I’m not a Kurt or Kyle fan. But,I don’t think Kurt should be chastize for what happen at Dover. Some, not all of these so-called reporters or journalist should have common sencewhen approaching a driver or other member in the garage area. They (reporters?) try to get a story by asking a stupid question at a time that person is up set for what ever reason. They tried it on Dale Sr. and others These (Prima-donna reporters) think the world owes them a good story. Nascar should butt out and let the problem take care of it’s self. Where it be car owners or sponsors or another driver. Richard Childress did it the proper way. the old fashion way. It always works. It was practiced in my days of racing and worked great. My driver would confront another driver or vice versa take a swing or two and it is over. then we all go to the local bar and be friends again. Next week, back at it. and we still had fun. It Works!

Bill B
06/04/2012 07:17 PM
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Lydia,
My point exactly. It “doesn’t mean they owe anyone more then the average “smuck”!” but they don’t owe any less either. If I can’t act like a prick at work he shouldn’t be able to either. Good luck getting a sponsor on that 51 car now. And that is really the point. As long as a driver needs to suck corporate america’s teet for sponsorship money they have to act with a certain level of discipline.

Sorry, I don’t buy into the talented prima-donnas need to be given special treatment school of thought.

DoninAjax
06/04/2012 07:43 PM
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If you want a prima-donna diva, I give you Darrell Waltrip, who cries way too often.

Steve
06/04/2012 10:51 PM
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Ok, about KuBusch, too bad so sad. He should learn from Stewart and take care of Rick and Brian and then you can say what you want. But the good news is we don’t have to listen to the Dipstick brothers in the booth anymore this season!

 

Contact Amy Henderson

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