The Frontstretch: Enough of the Petulant Kurt Busch by Bryan Davis Keith -- Monday October 8, 2012

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Enough of the Petulant Kurt Busch

The Yellow Stripe · Bryan Davis Keith · Monday October 8, 2012


So here’s a question. If Furniture Row Racing asks nicely, can they get Regan Smith back for a few more weeks? After all, the rumor mill is swirling that one Kurt Busch may be facing his second suspension of the 2012 season after the weekend’s race at Talladega. Busch, who got dumped in traffic after running out of fuel in the draft, ended up driving his wrecked car away from first responders, who not only had their equipment stashed on the roof of the wrecked machine, but were also visibly working and communicating inside the race car.

Kurt Busch was supposed to launch Phoenix Racing into the spotlight…he just wasn’t supposed to do it his way.

Frankly, if NASCAR can suspend Kurt Busch because he got annoyed with a reporter, they damn well better park the guy after Sunday. I don’t care how impassioned a speech Busch gave post-race about how his competitive streak compelled him to try and wheel his wrecked race car back to the garage so his team could work on it. There is absolutely no excuse for driving away from the scene of a crash once the first responders get there. Putting their safety at risk (and yes, it was at risk, watch the replays of the response team having to rush away from the moving car) and strewing their equipment all over the backstretch is more unacceptable than any words directed towards reporters ever could be.

No need for a column-long analysis here. And frankly I couldn’t care less that Busch didn’t listen to NASCAR’s command to stop. But driving off with rescue workers’ hands in the race car, that boils my blood (I’m admittedly biased, coming from a family of first responders).

While Busch’s remarks regarding his competitive streak and his apparent sainthood as a race car driver echoed with all the sincerity of a Bobby Petrino press conference, he did hit the nail on the head in post-race remarks Sunday when he noted that he’s put himself into a lot of the situations that have cratered his career. Case in point, Talladega.

Then again, there is apparently no need for Busch to learn a lesson and stop doing stupid things. Despite the fact that Busch has demonstrated zero improvement in terms of maturity or composure even after losing a premier ride at Penske Racing solely because he was a hothead, he’s been a full-time Cup driver all season long, and now has a fully sponsored ride in place for 2013.

The story behind Busch landing Furniture Row Racing’s No. 78 car is questionable enough. He’s replacing Regan Smith, the one driver that managed to lift a team that’s been a model in futility on the Cup circuit into a Southern 500 championship team just a season ago. Veteran Kenny Wallace couldn’t do that. Veteran Joe Nemechek couldn’t do that. But for all that accomplishment, Smith was shown the door for a driver that, albeit a Cup champion, has made headlines for nothing short of his language or antics over the past year.

Why should Busch change his behavior? He was stupid enough to run his mouth at a respected member of the media corps scarcely six months after getting the old heave-ho at Penske Racing for doing the exact same thing, yet his team voted to keep him on-board. (Author’s note: I don’t for one second believe that Busch should have been suspended for his remarks at Dover this spring, but I don’t want to be the guy trying to sell sponsors on a driver dumb enough to make the same mistake on camera twice either).

His talent as a race car driver sold Furniture Row Racing on replacing the most successful driver the team has had at any level in their history. Never mind the fact that that talent translated into nothing more than has already been done with Phoenix Racing equipment. Sure, Busch won a Nationwide race for the team. So have Jeff Purvis, Randy LaJoie, Jimmy Spencer, Jamie McMurray, Johnny Sauter and Mike Bliss.

Sure, Busch had moments of brilliance with the team’s Cup level program. That’s hardly unique either. Johnny Sauter led the Coca-Cola 600 with the former No. 09 team. Both Mike Wallace and Johnny Sauter scored top 10 finishes with the team on downforce tracks (Richmond, Phoenix). Wallace nearly won the Daytona 500 with the team. Brad Keselowski won at Talladega with the team. Flashes of brilliance have long been a staple for Phoenix Racing, even if they were sandwiched between loads of start-and-parks or 26th place finishes.

And leaving the No. 51 team, Busch leaves the squad 27th in owner points. A whopping three positions better than what Landon Cassill managed to pull off a season ago.

That’s what Furniture Row Racing is signing up for. A driver that for all his talent has demonstrated a complete inability to improve a mediocre ride. A driver that for all his talent has proven unable to live down the bad habit of overdriving a car to the point of wrecking it. A driver that secured next to no sponsor dollars even over the course of nearly a full season with Phoenix Racing. And a driver that despite ending on bad terms with two of NASCAR’s powerhouses still apparently requires the team he races for to act as an apologist.

One can only hope NASCAR has the balls to park this guy even without a shocking videoclip of a tirade to go with it this time. Because if the story of Kurt Busch is any indication, NASCAR’s ownership circle isn’t going to teach him anything.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


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10/09/2012 12:18 AM

Lets not get carried away. In REAL racing, your local tracks the worst thing is to be brought in on a hook. You want to drive it back, fix it and finish. Same here. Lighten up, he didnt endanger anyone and if I owned a team i would applaud his efforts. You safety-crats are suspension happy.

10/09/2012 12:28 AM

Remember when he hit Stewarts car in the pits and almost killed that crew member?

Kurt needs to be banned from nascar. He’s has mental issues and needs help.

Steve Cosentino
10/09/2012 01:07 AM

WOW lets just send him out to sea in a row boat. Henry you are so exagerating what happened. But using your thought process how long do we suspend Tony Stewart for causing a 25+ car accident? This sport would be so much better with 10 Kurt Busch’s then with 5 more bland one’s like the 48.

Nick J
10/09/2012 03:44 AM

Give me a break. I’m far from a Kurt Busch fan, but MANY, MANY, MANY drivers have gotten out of their cars and realized they aren’t as bad as they thought and jumped back in and took off, yes while the safety crew was already there. I give them credit, they get there VERY quickly, they are almost always there before a driver gets out of the car. He was calm on the radio when he asked his crew “why did we run out of gas”, so he wasn’t in a rage. He was just trying to get it back to the pits. And you can blame him all you want, but I would think common sense should have told the safety crew that “Hey, driver’s getting back in the car, hey, car starts up! Duh, I wonder what that means??????? It means, he’s leaving!!!!!! BACK AWAY. Hell Dale Earnhardt got back into his car after flipping it at Daytona and drove back to the pits and finished the race. What did the safety crew do, they got the heck out of his way. And Busch didn’t speed recklessly back to the pits or out of control with flat tires as he would have done if he were pissed off. He slowly worked his way back to pit road. Of course he couldn’t hear Nascar without his helmet on. I’ll be the first to say Kurt has gotten himself into much trouble this year, but you can’t hang a guy every time just because of what he did in the past. He did nothing wrong here. it’s not his fault the safety guy put his bag on top of the car. Kurt was being a race car driver and doing all he could to get back in the race and this wouldn’t have remotely been an issue if it were any other driver that had done it, that doesn’t have Kurt’s history. If Nascar suspends him, it’s solely out of spite and uncalled for in this particular case. This is a very clear and easy NO CALL.

Dale Wilberger
10/09/2012 06:34 AM

Two wrongs don’t make a right.
NASCAR screwed up once. Don’t do it again!!!

Dittos Nick 1

10/09/2012 07:52 AM

I normally enjoy reading all articles on this website. However, this article is the most stupid thing I have ever read. Sure Kurt has made some mistakes, but this so called reporter is playing like GOD and thinks their opinion is the only thing that matters. I am currently a first responder and I have to use common sense everyday. I will be the first to say if I am working a crash scene and something happens to put my life in jeopardy then I am getting away quickly. Not standing around when a driver who is obviously not injured gets back in their car and starts the engine and then proceeds to drive away. Then look for “reporters” like yourself to state what grave danger they were in. It is for so called reporters like you that NA$CAR is going down the drain. Anyone who has access to a key board thinks they are correct in everything they write.

Bill B
10/09/2012 08:18 AM

Well we all might not be able to agree on whether or not Busch should be suspended, but can we all at least agree on the fact that he is one of the biggest dickheads to ever put on a helmet?

Carl D.
10/09/2012 09:22 AM

Bill B…. I agree. And the other one is his brother.

10/09/2012 10:03 AM

How’d he drive back to the garage area if he ran out of gas?

Matt L
10/09/2012 10:19 AM

It’s a matter of perspective why people are watching. The same thing can be viewed in many ways.

You can watch Talladega for the packs, the drafting, the big wreck. NASCAR and the tv networks advertise all of them. You can like a driver because he/she is levelheaded, logical, wild, very determined, slightly crazy, etc.

Not everyone is going to agree. At least in my perspective, what Kurt did was not safe for the safety workers there to HELP him. How would you like to be the safety worker in this situation? Kurt’s record of foul behavior over the years could fill a multi-chapter book. It might be time to take a vacation.

But are his meltdowns and spontaneous actions what fans and what NASCAR want in a sport dulled by marketing? Kurt is the entertaining crazy character in the story. It comes down to perspective. What comes first for NASCAR, the business or the sport? Is it about creating characters or dangerously racing cars? It’s morals and safety vs. marketing and entertainment. It’s ultimately up to NASCAR how the company wants to present itself.

10/09/2012 10:19 AM

What Montoya did driving extremly fast by service vehicles (ie jet dryer) when he knew something was wrong(ie vibrations) was 1000 times more dangerous than getting back in a car, starting it up and slowing driving away. I would sure have the smarts to back away if the car refired or if I saw the driver getting back in. Maybe we should consider displinary action of the safety workers who were not paying attention.

Matt L
10/09/2012 10:41 AM

Jason, vibrations can be caused by so many things in the car. He was already at the bottom of the track on the double yellow lines. I doubt Montoya (or anyone) could predict how that situation unfolded next.

Meanwhile, Kurt is sitting at a stop with safety workers all around his car. Obviously, he gave them no warning since the backpack was still on the car. It’s pretty easy to imagine what would happen if you just take off while the safety workers are getting organized around your car.

JD in NC
10/09/2012 11:23 AM

David, as for Kurt being able to drive the car back to the pits after it ran out of fuel; he explained that on the MRN interview. The ECM has a limp mode where it will run on reduced fuel pressure (I think of 20 psi). Not enough to race at 200 mph, but enough to fire up the car and make it back to the pits.

Jacklegged Nascar Expert
10/09/2012 11:45 AM

There is plenty of Rainbow Punch- the drink of nascar- for all who will continue to sip.

Sherri T
10/09/2012 11:46 AM

Wow! Strong feelings and very different perspectives of one event!

I don’t like Kurt Busch. I think he does a lot of flying off the handle without engaging his brain first. This incident wasn’t an indication that he’s changed much. Having safety workers respond quickly is a plus in any accident, so in a best case scenario, we would hope he would thank the safety workers and tell them he was going to take the car back to the garage. But since the gears in the his head must have been disconnected from the cognitive ability section of his brain as usual, he just jumped in the car and took off.

Is this a call for suspension? I guess that’s NASCAR’s call (not that they always make the best calls), but as mentioned above, the car started up (which to me would be a clue that he’s going to move), so I would hope the safety guys had a clue that movement wasn’t far behind.

Was it a great move? No. Was it suspension material? I don’t think so. Sounds like a misunderstanding to me, despite the mental midget display.

10/09/2012 12:30 PM

If Kurt had enough gas to get back to the garage, why did he sit there waiting for safety crew? And, why did he take his helmet off? Don’t most drivers try to get the car started right after spinning/crashing? I can’t remember who it was on fire (under car) after a crash, but he kept driving until CC told him to stop and get out.

I hope nascar treats Kurt like real life probation violators. Off to jail, or in his case out of a race or two.

10/09/2012 12:57 PM

ha ha ha suspend Tony for the helmet throwing incident and his Bone headed driving at dega , just think how his jaws would be flapping if he was wrecked he would be calling for MORONS to be parked and blah blah blah NA$CAR is a joke and only the golden boys get to do what they want

Frank Williams
10/09/2012 01:05 PM

When Earnhardt did it they thought is was the second coming of Christ get in the real world no harm no foul

10/09/2012 01:12 PM

seems like a lot of folks are missing the point here. this is not an isolated incident. Kurt is a multiple time violator of na$cars rules and policies and has put peoples safety in jeopardy more than once with his childish antics. not to be overly dramatic, but does someone have to die before he gets set down by na$car.

Sue Rarick
10/09/2012 01:46 PM

I just realised why I watch very little Nascar anymore. The people running Nascar are just like the mama-boys that want Kurt draged and quatered. Maybe Nascar can put the drivers in bubble suits and let them ride around the track on wittle tricycles and go vroom vroom vroom.

Carl D.
10/09/2012 01:53 PM

Since the discussion has grown to include Tony Stewart, Here are his comments from Sonoma last year, reprinted by Art Garner in his column yesterday:

“If they wanna block, that’s what’s gonna happen to ‘em every time, for the rest of my career. I’m not gonna tolerate it. I don’t race guys that way and I’m not gonna let anybody race me that way. So if they block, they get dumped.”

“There are 42 guys out there and they know now how I race and what I expect. I don’t race ‘em that way, I don’t block guys and I’m not gonna block guys. If they block me, they will suffer the consequences.”

Apparently if Stewart blocks them, they will also suffer consequences..

Bill B
10/09/2012 01:56 PM

Maybe you are right Sue but you have to admit, he is a prick. Right?

old farmer
10/09/2012 02:20 PM

hy doesn’t everyone just shut up about Kurt Busch and let him drive? He can’t even go to the bathroom, it seems, without someone complaining about something.

10/09/2012 02:35 PM

I was watch that part of the race and tv did not show what happened. If he climbed back in the car, said he was taking it back to the pits, started the engine, them get out of the way. We won’t see any video of it. If somebody at the car didn’t think he should bother tying to repair it it’s not their call. I’m not a fan of his, but this is way over blown and one sided.

10/09/2012 02:41 PM

While NOT a fan of Kurt’s this inciDENT warrants no more than a fine of some type..That said he was on probation at the time so maybe more is warranted but this would be 1 of the smaller ones (crashing Tony on pit road was big)

Kevin in SoCal
10/09/2012 03:49 PM

I thought Kurt ran into the back of Ryan Newman in the pits at Darlington, not Tony Stewart?
I agree with Nick J and the others who said this isnt deserving of the coverage its getting. NASCAR punished him by parking him the rest of the race, and that’s all the punishment needed. Although he should probably give a sincere apology to the safety crew who was there, as well.

10/09/2012 08:32 PM

Kinda funny, all these opinions but in reality Kurt endangered NO-ONE and made his team proud. I guess all you whiners enjoy the no action races with drivers who shrug and say “it was a good points day”. Sorry but Kurt isnt pne of those. Good for him. Me neither

10/09/2012 10:38 PM

Funny, if you take the top 2 stories from Talladega Sunday – Tony Stewart wrecks the field blocking, and Kurt Busch driving away trying to get a better finish – switch the names of Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch in each story, you suddenly have a hero trying to finish the race in a wrecked car, and a d!(khead who wrecked the whole field cause he can’t drive and should be parked. not the first time Tony has talked out both sides of his mouth (first Daytona 2006 with Kenseth, again this year with the “I don’t block bs”) KB is unfortunately the new Robby Gordon – the guy that does the same thing as Tony stewart but actually gets the repercussions and punishments.

Dave libby
10/11/2012 01:03 PM

As far as Busch goes, the furnature row team willingly hired him so they deserve just what they are going to get with him. As for Nascar, they have been using rules and discipline for publicity purposes rather than for racing purposes for years now and they are getting what they deserve.

10/14/2012 10:39 AM

Kurt should have told everyone around his car that he was going back to the pits and to get out of his way so they don’t get hurt. Or maybe they should have figured it out for themselves. Best of luck Kurt.