The Frontstretch: Potts' Shots: The Perils Of Reckless Driving In The Pits by John Potts -- Thursday May 17, 2012

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Potts' Shots: The Perils Of Reckless Driving In The Pits

NASCAR Fan Q & A · John Potts · Thursday May 17, 2012


This week From Billy in San Antonio, we get the following:

Well, we have the “other” Busch brother in trouble again. After Kyle seems to have cleaned up his act to a degree, Kurt has himself fined and on probation. What was your first reaction to his wild burnout through the Newman pit at Darlington?

My first reaction? I was glad I wasn’t in that pit at the time.

Seriously, the subject of speeding or reckless driving in the pits has always been a big peeve of mine. This coming from a guy who worked in a NASCAR pit in the 1960’s, when there were no speed limits. There’s nothing like changing a right side tire while cars are going by at over 100mph to get your attention.

I was glad to see speed limits come along, mostly because of the way I feel about those guys working down there. I wasn’t the least surprised that the No. 39 crew was unhappy about the deal, particularly the gas man. Of course, he got penalized for his conduct as well, and he should have been. After all, it appeared to be his action that caused a NASCAR official to be knocked onto the hood of Busch’s car. Any time you touch an official in anger in any sport, no matter at whom that anger is directed, you’re in trouble.

But I did understand how the guy felt.

We’ve heard from Kurt himself that he was seeing a sports psychologist, this decision following his little blowup with Jerry Punch caught on camera at the end of last year. I think maybe he ought to get a second opinion, or maybe even a second psychologist. Whoever his current therapist is, they’re not getting much in the way of appreciable results. Naturally, another reaction of mine was to revert to one of my favorite lines, “Where is Jimmy Spencer when you really need him?”

If Kurt’s not careful, he may eventually end up with nobody to drive for except his little brother. Car owners and sponsors take a dim view of having their name mentioned in connection with fines and penalties. After all, he’s already lost rides with Roush and Penske because of his conduct.

The damage to the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet was not due to the Lady In Black, but rather the Mad Man In Black on pit road following the race.

Anybody who has ever been around when I’ve been in a position of authority at a short track will tell you that one of the things that gets my back up quickly is reckless driving through an enclosed pit area – one that’s not normally used for anything but a work area. I can recall it happening once when I was a pit steward, and as I tried to keep my cool, I informed the driver involved that it was absolutely inexcusable, that it was his first strike, and that in this game you only get two.

Even driving too fast after a race is over has had an affect on me at least once.

After a televised USAC midget race at Indianapolis Raceway Park, we were stepping over the rail to conduct the winner’s trophy presentation and interview, having gotten the “OK” sign well after the race had been completed, when a competitor came blasting out of the fourth turn at full throttle. I was the first one over the wall, and naturally I bailed.

Then I came back over and announced my intention to have a serious talk with that driver when he got in the pit area.

Cooler heads prevailed, in the form of the late Roger McCluskey grabbing my arm and telling me he’d take care of it. Since Roger was USAC’s director of competition at the time, I decided it was his area of jurisdiction. However, I did ask him if we had the right to refuse any entry. Roger’s answer was a great one: “I’m not sure, but I’m going to tell him that you do, and that he’s probably going to have a real problem getting back in here.”

It worked. Not that night, but the guy actually came to our office the next week to offer a sincere apology.

All this being said, I think it also should be pointed out that anyone who has ever driven in competition will tell you that when you’re out there, as Butch Miller once told me, “It’s like you’re in a different world.” I can personally attest to that, being lucky enough to have done a little driving in my early days in this crazy sport.

This isn’t confined to motorsports. I was watching an NBA game on TV a long time back, when I think Bill Russell was serving as the analyst. There had just been a timeout, and when they went back on the court, one of the players to whom the coach had been giving specific instructions (they had a microphone in the huddle) went out and did exactly what he was told not to do. The play-by-play man asked how that could happen, and I’ve always remembered Russell’s answer.

“You see that little black line? On the other side of it, it’s a different world.”

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Stephen Hood
05/17/2012 07:46 AM

“Maybe Kurt needs a second opinion.”
Psychology is not a quick fix. If all it took was a someone to say “hey, Kurt, act right” he’d be acting right by now. Kurt’s problems are deeply rooted and will not go away overnight and the best psychologists and other mental professionals in the world will be challenged to help Kurt learn some strategies to help him control his anger. My guess is Kurt’s anger and impatience is part of what has made him a successful stock car driver.

05/17/2012 12:56 PM

NASCAR can stop these pit road-rage incidents any time they feel like it. Suspension and, then, permanent ban for repeat offense. The drivers will suddenly find their self-control.

05/18/2012 02:08 PM

I’m with Dennis on this one. I know I’m gonna miss a detail or two, but I remember watching an Atlanta (I think) race around 1990 or 91…before the pit road speed limits…and Ricky Rudd pulled into his stall, lost it, spun around & his right rear contacted Bill Elliott’s right rear, who was pitting in the box in front of Rudd’s, and crushed Elliott’s rear tire changer.
There weren’t many replays of that, and rightfully so, but if you were watching it in real time, you just knew something wasn’t right as you could see the crewman, then you couldn’t.
In the next day or two, word came out that he had been killed…and if I’m not mistaken, Atlanta was the season finale, so the following year the pit road speed limits went into effect….and thank goodness for that.
Those folks that go over the wall lay it on the line every single time, and yes they know its part of the job, but they don’t need the added risk of a bonehead throwin a hissy fit.
It’s not, but if my vote counted….Kurt Busch has worn out his welcome. Villans are good for ratings, but let’s not get someone killed before reacting….as Nascar’s been known to do.