The Frontstretch: Just Like His Brother: Old Kurt Busch Rears His Ugly Head at Darlington by Bryan Davis Keith -- Tuesday May 15, 2012

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Just Like His Brother: Old Kurt Busch Rears His Ugly Head at Darlington

The Yellow Stripe · Bryan Davis Keith · Tuesday May 15, 2012


Two straight years, two melees on pit road at Darlington to end the “Southern” 500, two different Busch brothers involved.

From irate policemen, abused reporters and now a ticked off pit crew, Kurt Busch is going one direction with his career: the wrong way.

This fight from this past Saturday was different. The crews fought, not the drivers. The signature video clip of one car getting drilled was not there. Chances are, Kurt Busch vs. Ryan Newman will not be the marketing campaign used to sell tickets to the 2013 Cup race at Darlington. But what this clash lacked in terms of celebrity, it more than made up for in terms of significance. Last year’s Kyle vs. Kevin clash was business as usual; two of NASCAR’s biggest hotheads acting like morons in front of millions. Nobody learned anything new: Kyle Busch was still a coward, so scared of paying for his actions that he ran through parked traffic to get away and Kevin Harvick entered another conflict hidden behind a gargantuan helmet that’d make a Victoria’s Secret model a competent boxer.

Saturday was far from a replay, and wasn’t a bout between two drivers with history and egos to match. The beef wasn’t between the drivers of the Nos. 51 and 39, but instead the No. 51 driver and the No. 39 crew. Newman’s pit mates were irate after Busch blazed through their pit stall even as crewmen and officials were still clearing their box after completing work on the No. 39 car. Tensions already high, Busch ran into the back of Newman’s parked car on pit road after the conclusion of the race, prompting numerous crewmen from the No. 39 to confront Busch’s team on pit road. Shoves were exchanged before the aggressors were finally restrained and pulled away, keeping likely Tuesday penalties to a minimum.

But NASCAR’s involvement, at this point is inconsequential. Though in terms of a scuffle, this one was tame, the damage done could well send shockwaves through a 2012 season that can only be described as vital for one Kurt Busch.

The Busch brothers both entered this season in dire need of a rebirth. Kyle finished 2011 on the sidelines, sponsors and team alike disciplining the driver after he slammed Ron Hornaday into the fence Truck racing at Texas, while Kurt was allowed to leave Penske Racing after an ugly tirade levied towards reporter Jerry Punch at Homestead.

This type of controversy isn’t new ground for either driver. It’s become a yearly thing to discuss “new Kyle Busch” until adversity comes and rears its ugly head. Kurt narrowly avoided jail after acting arrogantly in the face of one of America’s strictest law enforcement departments in Phoenix, a decision that cost him his ride at Roush Racing less than a year removed from a Cup championship. But unlike Kyle, who still has a big-time ride and his own race team, the rant at Homestead left Kurt with no options but an unsponsored mid-tier car at Phoenix Racing. He entered 2012 with three challenges: to stay relevant driving a 25th-place car, to prove that he could still bring in sponsor dollars after acting out in so virulent a manner that sponsor Shell/Pennzoil and Penske Racing both said heave-ho to a proven race winner in favor of an unproven commodity in A.J. Allmendinger… and to get the fans, media and garage alike talking about the “new Kurt Busch.”

Following this week’s latest episode at Darlington, any progress made in rehabbing his image is gone. A late-race spin relegated an otherwise strong run by Busch to a mediocre 21st — not a finish likely to draw a much-needed sponsor. The financial part of Busch’s uphill climb in 2012 is obviously not going well (funny or not, carrying a Ricky Bobby paint scheme at Talladega is not bringing home the big bucks it takes to Cup race competitively). But the biggest damage done was on pit road following the race, no matter how minor the contact between his and Newman’s cars appeared.

For one, Kurt Busch had no rational reason to hit Newman in the first place. The No. 39 crew was angry, but the No. 39 driver had nothing to do with that… or Busch’s spin. Yet, when the race came to a close, the No. 51 car ran into a parked Chevrolet on pit road! Of course, Kurt’s excuse was he didn’t see where he was going because he was taking his helmet off. Believe that one and feel free to swing by my apartment, I have a bridge to sell you.

Considering the circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that Newman was upset in post-race remarks, telling Dustin Long, “Kurt drilled me in pit lane and said that he was taking his helmet off and he didn’t see where he was going, which I’m pretty sure there were 42 other guys that are taking their helmets off and doing whatever for the last 10 years and that’s the first time that’s happened to me. Circumstances I think are that he lied and was so frustrated that he doesn’t know how to deal with his anger.”

Harsh? Sure. Justified? Absolutely. But Newman went further, into surprising territory. When asked if he was worried about Kurt as a driver, Newman remarked, “Everybody has for the last 10 years. He’s proven that. When you can’t keep a job, it’s pretty obvious.”

Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, during happier times: pulling out a 1-2 finish in the 2008 Daytona 500 for Penske Racing.

That remark borders on the shocking, mostly because it comes from a former teammate. It’s easy to forget it wasn’t but a few years ago that Busch and Newman were both teammates at Penske Racing. In fact, it was Kurt Busch that ultimately got Penske Racing back from single-car operations to a multi-car team after a bitter feud between Newman and Rusty Wallace had built a 50-foot wall between the Nos. 2 and 12 cars. Busch and Newman were never the chums that the Rocket and Smoke are today, but there was never a hint of bad blood, at least not to the degree that Newman alluded to Saturday.

Having said that “former teammate” bit, there’s another factor to consider here: Newman and Busch are under the same umbrella banner of Hendrick Motorsports now. So do the math… Kurt Busch hit a de facto teammate. Kurt Busch used the C-team car to hit a B-team car. The unsponsored driver hanging on by a thread hit a Chase contender and a race winner for the Hendrick organization. And the driver that’s already torched bridges with flagship operations at Ford and Dodge has now gotten into an ugly and unnecessary spat with a driver directly backed by Chevrolet’s big boss… and a three-time championship driver that has Hendrick’s ear.

All of this mess, again, for no good reason. It’s irrational, inflammatory behavior that does not have a positive spin to be put on it.

It’s “old Kurt Busch” all over again. Cup champion or not, a career can only take so much of that before turning catastrophic.

Contact Bryan Davis Keith

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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05/15/2012 07:44 AM

Good article. Kurt is like the boy that cried wolf, enough is enough. Anyone believing he or Kyle will ever change is a sap, I’m sorry to say. By the way, it should be three-time champion in the last paragraph I think, not two-time since I’m assuming you’re referring to Tony and he’s won in 2002, 2005 and 2011.

Stephen Hood
05/15/2012 07:53 AM

You only have part of the story. Newman’s pit crew decided they were going to take justice into their own hands and went looking for Busch. Busch’s crew chief recognized what was happening and warned Kurt to park well away from crew the area. I guess Busch decided to ignore his crew chief’s advice and decided he wouldn’t back down from the confrontation. Pushing and shoving and dented race cars ensued. I’m a Junior/Stewart/Keselowski/Johnson fan, so I don’t have a duck in the fight. Yet, I do think Busch gets unfairly maligned for marginal stuff. Sure, he shouldn’t take on law enforcement agents and he can be a hothead and sometimes seems to have a sense of entitlement. But, he’s also a great driver that makes the action on the track more enjoyable. Maybe he needs to be run out of the sport or aybe some in the media need to quit making mountains out of molehills and allow the drivers to show a bit of emotion, to get a little angry, and to show their ass as my wife likes to say. Kurt brings passion to the sport and I can’t remember him killing anybody in the decade or more he’s been in the sport. Newman seems to be afraid of a lot of things (plate racing and Kurt Busch tend chemical imbalances). Maybe he should take his engineering degree and find a career with less drama and more safety. I look forward to Kurt getting behind he wheel of a better ride with a better sponsor and I hope he is able to kick Newman’s butt on and off the track.

05/15/2012 08:30 AM

Great article bryan. Sorry Stephen, you are so far off. Mountain out of a molehill? What if Busch the Idiot ran over a crew member. Show emotion? Fine, do it like a man and get out of the car, take your helmet off and then handle it. Driver through pit road like a jerk, hitting parked cars and tearing up equipment is not acceptable. And I don’t mean not acceptable for just Busch the Idiot-it is not acceptable for any driver. So many of these drivers have a reputation for being “tough” and “fiery” and, accept for Andy Lally who no longer races Sprint Cup, I don’t think one current driver could fight their way out of a paper sack. Don’t mistake wrecking parked cars, tearing through a pit box, or yelling at pit rerporters as tough. And if you ever think Busch the Idiot could kick Newman’s butt, or anyones butt, of the race track you are delusional. Busch the Idiot reminds me of the kind of guy that started fights in high school with his mouth and then ran to hide behind some football lineman who he paid to protect him. I have no doubt that Busch the Idiot was a punk in high school, just as he is a punk today.

J Spencer
05/15/2012 10:58 AM


05/15/2012 11:21 AM

I’m glad that someone in the media said it… If you wear a helmet to a fight, you look like a tool.

Busch was leaving Roush of his own accord, when the Phoenix thing happened.

05/15/2012 11:33 AM

I’m SO tired of the Bush brothers. Sure they are both good race car drivers but the DRAMA is distracting. I want to see racing, not some stupid FOX inspired “reality” show crap.

Michael in SoCal
05/15/2012 11:39 AM

What’s forgotten in this is that just last week Kurt Busch was the talk of the track with his Ricky Bobby “ME” paintscheme and driver suit. He was hitting the right notes to make signing with an upper-tier team a possibility for 2013. Not any more. He’ll be lucky to drive part time for his brother in the Nationwide series, and drive a start & park in the Cup series.

Although that past champion’s provisional might prove to be his goose that lays the golden egg.

05/15/2012 12:49 PM

Enjoyed the column and found it fairly written.

but as for most of the other mob…. YEAH… let’s drive Kurt out of nascar….
Burn him, they say… BURN HIM!!!

Great… just what we need..

Might as well make the drivers as boring as the races well, except for the ones who make soft core porn ads. That’s what we want! That and more wrecks YEAH! and more cautions (just as long as we get to see the debris on tv.) Oh and while we’re at it let’s have more drivers like Jimmie and Kenseth. You know, those nice sportsman like family men and cousin carl who is always smiling so pretty (when he’s not in a car trying to kill someone.) Let’s face it, the guy (talking kurt here) has acted like a jerk for most of his career but he’s a good wheelman who brings something to the garage that’s currently in very short supply. I’m talking about desperation, a compelling desire to win (not points race,) verve, fire and passion. With tv ratings down 8 percent over this weekend last year… Have it your way…. more vanilla. I give up… take CRAPCAR and if that’s what you want it to be, i don’t want any part of it.

You probably find the the fuel mileage races interesting too. sheesh.

Well said MR Hood.. except for I don’t think kurt could or should try to kick anyone’s butt off the track (I believe mr spencer taught him that lesson)

05/15/2012 01:17 PM

To Stephen Hood,
Why the animosity towards Newman. He did nothing wrong. He even got out of the car and let Busch make his excuse instead of just punching him. Just confused on your reasoning for dissing Newman, was it because he said out loud what 90% of anyone involved in Nascar is thinking?

05/15/2012 01:24 PM

Kurt’s an arrogant pinnus…but can wheel…although it sure appears that sooner than later his hissy fits are gonna allow him to move on over to the NHRA like he’s been mentioning for a few years…sadly, in corporate America, talent’s way less important than image/attitude & race cars run on $$$.

Kyle’s an arrogant pinnus but can wheel…hell, he’s probably got more pure talent than anyone we’ve seen in Nascar in a LONG time.

Harvick got out with helmet on…and he usually waits on a crew member to be near. Now call that what you want, but if that confuses you, you should probably spend more time at the racetrack, most drivers do it that way, even at the dirt track around my place on Saturday nights, seen it a bazillion times.

I promise I’m not trying to pick a fight with this next one, but no way I can skip it, as for…“I’m a Junior/Stewart/Keselowski/Johnson fan”?? Really?? Hamlin & Kennseth have won lately too, why not pull for them as well?? You must spend a fortune on hats & t-shirts! “hey man, who’s your driver?”…“Well, I don’t know, who’s leading”….c’mon, man.

Bill B
05/15/2012 01:32 PM

I think you meant PENIS. And, yes, that is a fitting moniker for Kurt.

connie moore
05/15/2012 02:37 PM

why do you have so much hate in your remarks how do you think you would react in some circustances be nice

Stephen HOOD
05/15/2012 02:53 PM

I was a Texas Aggie fan and than I discovered NASCAR. I find with NASCAR I can root for 4 or 5 drivers and the chances of my week being ruined because my team didn’t win are less likely. Also, I like that a top 5 or 10 is often a win in the long term. As for Hamlin, I feel about him like I feel for Ryan Newman which is not much. My brother knows about my love for Hamlin so he brought me an autographed hat he picked up at Pocono which I now use as an oil rag. I’m neutral about Kenseth. I don’t throw things when he wins, but he does drive for Roush. As for Newman, his opinions are usually the opposite of mine, so whatever he says I’ll usually take the other side. Newman hates Talladega, I love it. Newman thinks Kurt is crazy, I say not so fast. Newman says Kurt is a douche, I say Newman’s a douche. I probably have some deep seated anger issues caused by a chemical imbalance and Newman makes them boil to the surface. For me Newman is the Mitt Romney of NASCAR. He has all the tools and the exterior packaging is appealing, but the substance is lacking. For me he is an empty fire suit.

Of course I’m only a fan. I don’t know Ryan or Kurt or Denny or Matt. What I know about them is filtered through the media. For all I know Ryan is a decent human being and Kurt is a sociopath and Hamlin walks old ladies across the street and sings in the choir at the baptist church. I like Kurt better than Newman so I made some comments in the Talkback on Frontstretch. I’m having fun, killing time, and enjoying NASCAR. No malice or real hatred.

05/15/2012 02:59 PM

Kurts actions are unacceptable as soon as pedestrians (pit road personal) are in danger…Simple as that..This man does not carry himself like a pro or with any class so why would sponsors jump to any one who is pissing people off & appears to have no understanding of how to get a crew to work for him..& Kurt was leaving Roush but he was punted by Jack before seasons end (& Crown Royal) after the police incident. I’m just sad that the gas man for the 39 team is going to pay the price for this & I wish he had got his hands on kurt (slap in the head seems to fix them up for the short term…kurt fired? ..No I think Mr Finch is to smart for that (the guy can drive) Suspension from Nascar to send a message on pit road safety…Newman= just a victim…Jus another opinion

05/15/2012 03:09 PM

Babydufus got it right. If you leave it up to the whining folks on this page Dale SR would have been banned from racing in the 80s, along with Rusty and a couple of others. Even golf has John Daly, give me a break. If I want to watch boring gentlemen, I’d watch tennis… Oh thats right they’ve even got Mcenroe! Face it you’ve gotta have emotion, it’s SPORTS!

Red Carey
05/15/2012 03:40 PM

Amen to that glenn.

sylvia richardson
05/15/2012 03:41 PM

WONDER what happen to my post??? Newman is a hot head just like KURT.

05/15/2012 05:01 PM

So, everyone knew that Newmans’ pit crew had a problem with Kurt. Where were the Nascar officials? Why weren’t they down on pit road to get things under control before they got out of hand? Must be the same bunch that knew Kevin Harvick was waiting for Greg Biffle at Bristol several years ago, then launched himself over the Biff’s car to get at him. Shouldn’t Nascar take at least some of the heat for this thing getting so out of hand? And there is never an excuse for endangering men working on pit road…especially when there are only 2 cars on pit road at the time.

05/15/2012 06:04 PM

The racing stinks so they give us bread and circuses. I mean really people, who gives a fat rats a** about this nonsense .

05/15/2012 09:36 PM

As boring as the racing has been this year, maybe NASCAR better consider sponsoring Kurt Busch next year to make sure there is Some excitement in each race.

05/16/2012 08:26 AM

Right on Don. Every week what is talked about after the race? Jet dryers getting blown up; who is mad at who; I (fill in the blank) vs. (fill in the blank) the new rivalry; D. Patrick invents the taking your hand off the wheel move, etc. Whenn was the last time the hype was about the product on the track? The racing stinks, so we need to focus on all the WWE garbage. I want good racing, the save the sideshows for the circus or WWE. Just saying.