The Frontstretch: Introducing...The Real Kurt Busch by Mike Neff -- Monday June 4, 2007

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Introducing...The Real Kurt Busch

Full Throttle · Mike Neff · Monday June 4, 2007


Kurt Busch has gone through a lot of media scrutiny in his years as a professional race car driver. In the beginning, that exposure was all negative; after years of being exposed for his immaturity and aggressive driving, he worked very hard to repair his image and began to look like a responsible, civilized competitor after he won the first Nextel Cup trophy ever awarded back in 2004.

However, all this time, just under the surface, the Kurt Busch of old has lurked alive and well, just waiting for its next opportunity for tempers to flare and its chance to take out another innocent victim. Over the last few weeks, it appears as though that version of Kurt Busch, the real one, has begun to bubble back to the surface. That’s a shame, because if he doesn't do something soon to knock himself back to reality, there is a chance NASCAR might have to do it for him…and it won’t be pretty when they do.

The first glimpses that most of today's NASCAR fans had of the real Kurt were in 2002. Most of the fans remember him back then making the universal gesture to signify that Jimmy Spencer should be moved to the rear of the field during the Brickyard 400; a few laps later, Spencer was in the wall. Combine that with Busch bumping Spencer out of the way to win his first career Cup series race at Bristol, and, well, you could clearly see this was just the beginning of what would be an infamous Busch / Spencer feud.

The following year at Michigan is where that feud came to a head. Of course, that’s where the famous altercation occurred in which Busch tried to intentionally bump into Spencer on the track to push in his fenders and cut a tire. That move didn't work out so well, and actually hurt Busch's car worse than Spencer's; however, after the race was when Busch would end up hurting just as bad. Kurt was driving by Spencer on his way to his garage when he proceeded to launch an obscenity laced tirade about the day’s events that, at one point, mentioned that Spencer would die. Spencer was so incensed by Busch’s rant that he slugged the youngster through the window of his car. However, it was Spencer that ended up being labeled with a TKO, as the altercation resulted in him being suspended and forced to miss the following week's race at Bristol; Busch avoided that type of penalty, but his image took a huge hit from fans who felt like he didn’t give a veteran like Spencer the respect he deserved.

Apparently, it took that type of physical violence to wake Kurt up to his wacky ways. In 2004, a more mature Busch completed what could best be described as a fantastic turnaround; he made the field for the original Chase for the Cup and was crowned the series’ first Nextel Cup Champion. After winning the honor, Kurt vowed to be a fine ambassador for the sport and lived up to his end of the deal, truly putting his best foot forward with both the media and the fans. Realizing his newfound fame, Busch tried very hard to be accommodating for public appearances and during speaking engagements; even on the race track, he seemed to be driving more like a gentleman than he had at anytime in the past. However, before the end of the 2005 season, Busch had the infamous run-in with the Maricopa county sheriff in Arizona and was summarily dumped from his Roush Racing ride before the season came to its full fruition.

Recovering quickly from that embarassing incident, 2006 was surprsingly quiet for Busch, but part of that is most likely because of the fact that the entire Penske organization was running like a pile of horse excrement and he was never really much of a threat to win outside of Bristol. That being said, at least the new Kurt was still in place and not making any headlines for on or off-track activities.

How quickly that can change.

2007 rolled around and from the very beginning, it has appeared as though the old Kurt is beginning to reemerge through headlines that would hardly be considered flattering. The trouble started at Daytona: as the 500 unfolded, it became clear Busch had a car that was very capable of winning the race. He ran near the front of the pack for much of the event, but ultimately put himself in a precarious position far too early and ended up taking out himself and Tony Stewart with 50 laps to go, putting the two cars in position to dominate the field on the sidelines for the race’s final segment.

Since then, the Penske cars have been a bit more competitive than last year, but really not contending for wins as of yet…that is, until the All-Star race in Charlotte three weeks ago. In that exhibition Busch was near the front of the pack for much of the night and was racing with his brother Kyle during the final segment when Kurt attempted to assert his authority over his little brother and crowded him as he tried to make a pass going into turn one. Instead of the kinder, gentler Kurt, the old Kurt put his car in a place that resulted in both himself and his brother being taken out. What’s ironic about that is after the race, it was the new Kurt who seemed to emerge during the post wreck interviews, not the old. He was neither overly heated nor abusive when interviewed about the incident, coming off as the more experienced, older brother who was going to have to talk to his younger sibling.

That all changed the following week at Charlotte. After battling an ill-handling car for most of the night, Busch wrecked out of the race on lap 296. During a post wreck interview, Busch reprimanded ESPN’s Shannon Spake about her manner of speaking after she asked a question. He then answered the question and began to walk away, but before the camera turned off, he went back after the reporter to again berate her for her technique and came off as a bit of a pompous jerk as a result.

Finally, during today’s Nextel Cup race at Dover, Busch was involved in some push and shove action with Tony Stewart. The end result was that Busch wound up with a torn up race car and Stewart had significant damage. As the cars came to pit road after their on track skirmish, Busch stopped next to Stewart's car. As the pulled up, crew members for Stewart were already moving to the car to attempt to make repairs, forcing them to move out of the way on short notice. Of course, the end result is that the crew members were put in more danger than they are normally subjected to on pit road, and that’s a type of scenario that should never occur. Busch was ultimately parked by NASCAR for the rest of the day and will likely receive some sort of fine and possibly suspension by the time the series heads to Pocono on Sunday.

“It's about racing people with respect, and (Kurt Busch) hasn't done that with anybody for a year," Stewart said after being wrecked. "You finally get to the point where you're tired of giving guys positions. Most of the guys are pretty good about it. There's only a couple of bad apples out there, and he's one of them.”

The “new” Kurt had seemed as though he was working towards being a model citizen ever since signing with Roger Penske. However, whether it is because of poor performance or just the fact that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, the old version of Busch is coming back to the forefront…and it is not reflecting well on Kurt or his race team. If Kurt doesn't clean up his act pretty soon and start handling himself in a more responsible manner, NASCAR will need to step in and do if for him. The race track and pit road are no places for drivers to settle their differences, and treating the media like second class citizens is not going to do anything to help with a driver's image.

The bottom line is that Kurt better clean up his act, and soon, or he's going to be back to running late models in Las Vegas.

Author's Note: It is a sad day for the sport with the passing of Bill France, Jr. The man took the sport from little bullrings and dirt tracks to a nationwide sports juggernaut. Whether you like the way the sport has turned out or not, there is no doubt that Bill France, Jr. took the sport to a completely new level that allowed many of us to fall in love with it. You'll be missed, Bill. Condolences to the entire France family and the whole NASCAR sport. Godspeed Bill.

For all the latest news and information concerning the death of Bill France, Jr. click here for all that Frontstretch has to offer on this tragic loss.

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©2000 - 2008 Mike Neff and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

M. B. Voelker
06/05/2007 07:54 AM

First, let me say that, like almost every other Kurt Busch fan, I thought his case of boneheaded idiocy on pit road was absolutely uncalled for and that he deserved being parked. If they park him for another race or two I’ll have no problems with it.

But you’re guilty of shallowness and oversimplification in claiming that only bad incidents are “the real Kurt Busch”.

Kurt is a complex personality. Yes, there are times when the vicious temper he struggles to control leads him to acts of utter stupidity. But there is a lot more to Kurt than just bad-tempered lapses in judgment.

The romantic, the clown, the generous writer of the million-dollar check to Victory Junction, the guy who let little girls dye his hair purple to make sick kids smile, the guy who hugged Ricky Craven in Victory Lane, the guy who stopped on the track to run to a fellow driver’s aid in an IROC race, the guy who bends over backwards to sign for and speak to more fans than actually had tickets for his autograph line, the guy who does autographs and photos for rival drivers’ fan when they’d just been ignored by their favorites, the guy so grateful for his championship that he brought every car owner he’d ever driven for to New York, the mangler of language, the backhandedly proud older brother who offered $100 to anyone who could knock Kyle off his first pole, the guy who knows his cars inside out, and the boneheaded idiot who lets his temper turn his brain off are all “the real Kurt Busch.”

Of course Kurt must get a handle on his temper. But a temper doesn’t make Kurt a bad person. If it did, Tony Stewart would be the last person on earth who should be throwing stones at Kurt Busch.

06/05/2007 08:16 AM

I’m no Kurt Busch fan, but you must have a grudge against this guy or something. Did he not sign an autograph for you after a race or something? You don’t even know this guy, and you’re like this is the real Kurt Busch. Give me a break

sandra king
06/05/2007 09:34 AM

That accident was Kurt’s fault for not making sure he was clear of Tony before he went up the track. I Hope NASCAR parks Kurt Bush.

Adam Campbell
06/05/2007 10:12 AM

I’m trying to recall any other innocent victim that has been taken out by Kurt’s temper. Kurt’s actions on pit road were uncalled for but there was not malicious intent. That is the difference between passion and violence. As for the incidents that lead up to the accident – Kurt stated Tony had gotten into the back of him on several restarts – probably angry that he came into the pits ahead of Kurt and then exited behind him – and Tony was backing up and holding up 3 faster race cars. Kurt tried to pass Tony clean for about 15 laps before pushing the issue. As for Tony wanting everyone to give him position – maybe it would be a lot more fun for him to run 500 miles all by himself. He could then have all the give and take he needs. I’m sure Kurt will be punished by NASCAR and likely more severely than others would in this same situation but the crew members safety should not be put at risk because of a diffence in opinion between two thick skulled adrenaline junkies.

06/05/2007 10:12 AM

Anyone who indangers any crew member like happened should, in my opinion, be parked for a year!!

06/05/2007 11:48 AM

Kurt and his spotter were at fault on this one. The driver being the one ultimately at fault since he’s in the car and makes the final decision.

What he did on pit road is definitely deserving of being parked for a while. Sorry, but a pit crew member is facing enough risk without somebody pulling an immature, boneheaded stunt like Kurt did.

Park him, fine him, dock him points, and let him reflect over the errors of his ways. Maybe then he’ll have second thoughts before he tries something like this again.

06/05/2007 12:00 PM

Kurt Busch is a punk, has been and always will be. Pulling into the pits like that is totally uncalled for, Tony’s crew should have pulled him out of the car and gave him an old fashioned beat down. This kind of bush league action would not have flown with the old timers in days gone by. I hope they park him for awhile, put some else in the car that appreciates the fact they have one of the greatist jobs around.

06/05/2007 12:19 PM

Well put Voelker. Nothing excuses Kurt from endangering a Gibbs pit crew member. That said Stewart is an idiot. His attitude is everybody should just move out of the way for him. He has wrecked more “innocent victims” than most, and then gets a “free pass” form NASCAR so as not to endanger their season long storyline. Maybe this is part of the other racers frustration.

06/05/2007 12:31 PM

The pit road thing was dumb. Busch should know better…but then again, so should carl edwards and everyone else that has done something dumb in that way.

The wreck was certainly a lack of space on both ends. But, Tony does this every time he’s in a wreck. He immediately plays the “respect” card and says “I’m just doing to them what they do to me.” It’s an absurd response and the “5% he doesn’t get along with” changes from week to week. He said similar things in the past about Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer…pretty much every driver except Mark Martin at some point has been part of that 5%.
Stewart may end up wrecking himself(and others) out of the chase again if he keeps it up.

06/05/2007 12:36 PM

It’s moronic people like you that keep the bs going. Tony has had it out for KB all year, and it is about time Kurt took care of it! You wont see Stewart screwing with Busch again!

06/05/2007 12:53 PM

And you think Jerk O Stewart is any better. I use to think he was alright but it is all about Tony and giving Tony respect. HUH. By the way do you really think Kurt was going to run into a pit crew.I think the whole pitcrew thing is blown way out.Tony did you get the messaage dont mess with Kurt

06/05/2007 01:02 PM

Maybe if NASCAR did something about Tony Stewart, none of this would happen. He’s allowed to bitch and moan about guys not “giving and taking” all the while putting people into walls and getting into the back of them on restarts….even pushing the pace car at Lowe’s last week right in front of where I was sitting.

I don’t agree with what Kurt Busch did on Pit Road yesterday, but I was sitting in my office LIVID that Tony helped put Kurt in the wall AGAIN this season (the second time in 2 weeks, no less) I can only imagine how ticked Kurt must’ve been. Again, I don’t condone what he did, but something has to be done about that wreckless Tony Stewart also.

06/05/2007 01:15 PM

Kurt should have taken Tony and his monkey to the woodshed. Why was that crew guy even on the outside of Tony’s car??? Did he see Kurt coming and run out to protect the little monkey in the orange car???? Grow up Tony and take your Prozac!!!

06/05/2007 01:29 PM

Come on man! Look back at all the close racing over the years and most every driver has done some stupid things. Get off the Kurt Busch bandwagon and call it like it really is. Kurt always gets a bad rap for how he negatively reacts. It seems it’s always a headliner when the Busch Brothers show their emotions in the wrong manner. Give it a rest! If Stewart would’ve given a little more then neither one would have wrecked and who know’s, maybe they would’ve been racing each other for the win.

06/05/2007 02:43 PM

hot dang lets get over this. this week end it will be some one else. both parties were to blame. now what Kurt did on pit road thats another story. remember we all have bad days.

Geoffrey Littleton
06/05/2007 03:21 PM

What a hit piece! Why not blame Kurt for 9-11. Tony Stewart is by far the biggest primadonna in NASCAR. He goes out of his way to wreck anybody who doesn’t kiss his fanny. What a crappy piece sticking up for a grade A putz…

06/05/2007 03:28 PM

Lady Di…the pit crew guy was there because Tony was parked in HIS pits.I’m not a Stewart fan by any means, but maybe you and Kurt both can watch this weekends Pocono race together since I’m sure he won’t be racing in it if NA$CAR has an ounce of respect for safety like they claim..

06/05/2007 05:28 PM

as far as i,m concerned,Kurt Busch never changed,he just did a good coverup.Like they say, “once a jerk,always a jerk”!

06/05/2007 06:00 PM

To ladydi; You have no CLUE! Do you remember Mike Rich! HE was KILLED on pit road!!! K.B. has gone too far,too many times,& his brother is from the same mold!!! History tends to repeat itself,I pray I don’t see it again!

Travis Rassat
06/05/2007 07:01 PM

This is probably going to come out wrong, but I still think that Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart are the kind of personalities that NASCAR needs – the love ‘em or hate ‘em, die hard racers. As long as nobody is injured, let ‘em have their grudges. As far as who the biggest whiner is, I think that honor still goes to Jack Roush.

If I remember correctly, the Kurt and Kyle incident at the All Star was mostly Kyle’s doing – it seemed that Kurt just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn’t really think Kurt was to blame for that.

06/05/2007 07:06 PM

Why do so many people want to forgive Busch because this incident involved the 20 team? What if it had invovled Mark Martin or Joe Nemechek? Would you then be so forgiving? What happened on the track was hard racing, and maybe a bad call by the spotter. What happened in the pits…....... was beyond stupid. Maybe Robby Gordon was right about Jimmy Spencer.

06/05/2007 08:47 PM

Kurt never got close to hitting the guy. Blow it all up to hate on a driver that you don’t like, that’s ok with me.

Some goons claim it should be attempted murder!

You folks are pathetic. He could have stopped or turned his car at any time, once the crew man moved he went in as close as he could to make his statement, nothing more.

Hate all you want.

Thanks BF Jr. Ya done a great job for all of us, we will miss you!

06/05/2007 09:14 PM

Tony Stewart thinks he can get the fan base that Dale Earnhardt Sr had but that has to be earned, which Tony doesn’t know how to do. Sure, KB did wrong on pit road. But Tony Stewart is FAR from the top driver that he thinks he is!
And it’s writers like this one (Mike) who has not done their history research on either racers. This aritcle is garbage! Just like Tony Stewart is garbage!

06/05/2007 10:40 PM

1st, lost in this mess & the loss of Bill France was one dominating performance by Martin Truex, congrats.
2nd, I think Blooze made an excellent point. Had this been any other driver Busch had hit, there would have been a major outcry. Busch caused the accident & then almost hit a crewman, he needs to sit.
NASCAR really needs to walk the safety talk, last year Carl Edwards nearly took off Dale Jr’s hand in a post race incident after other pit road incidents. He should have sat. If Kevin Harvick takes a chair for throwing a hissy fit, Edwards should have taken a seat & Busch should for multiple races.
This is the big leagues & it is embarrassing NASCAR gives harsher penalties for illegal rear spoiler mounts than it does for for almost killing a crew member.

Sean Decker
06/05/2007 11:47 PM

Has is occured to anyone that both of the idiots involved have problems making good decisions is the heat of the moment, not a good quality in a racing driver.

Kurt Busch’s actions on pit road should get him parked for at least a race but I think NASCAR is going to have problems justifying it given they should done the same to Tony Stewart for the incident at Pocono last year, instead, NASCAR penalized Stewart one lap for ruining two other drivers days. He should have been parked.

For various incidents throughout their careers both these clowns should have been parked until they grew up but NASCAR is unlikely to use this form of punishment given the dollars of sponsors involved.

Both of these jerks race like every lap is the last, if you want proof, look to last years first Loudon race and watch bonehead Stewart take himself out with about two-thirds of the race remaining, while in the lead, racing Ryan Newman who was two laps down on fresh tires. MORON! If I was his owner I’d kicked his butt all the way back to North Carolina. Not only did he throw away a probable win but he all but guaranteed that he wouldn’t make the chase in one shot. brilliant. As for Busch, his on track decision making is a touch better but run ins with both Stewart at Daytona, his own brother in the All-Star race and this latest debacle should and could have been avoided with a little give and take attitude on his part.

Both these fools would be best served if they would learn to just shut up and drive. They seem to have forgotten the old saying, “In order to finish first, first you must finish.”. On the plus side at least they only took each other out and for all I care, they can keep doing that for as long as they like. They’re both spoiled brats in my book.

Tony C
06/06/2007 04:18 PM

I’m neither a fan of Stewart or Busch but this was over the top Kurt is a dirt racer by all means. If he having a bad day in a car he will spread his misery to others. Just ask Greg Biffle at Texas. Kurt had to chase him all the way up the hill to get him. Robby at Lowe’s the same way but he needed a yellow. Craven at Darlington the only problem was Craven was already agaist the wall so he couldn’t spin out. Tony has his issues as well. I still remember him just punting Truex at Bristol when he was racing Gordon hard after a spin. So Tony’s no angel as well. But, Tony will meet you at the woodshed to discuss race issue afterwards. Kurt would be more likely to send his attorney or wife to talk to you. Busch needs to sit out for long time at least 4-6 races and fined several hundred thousand dollars. Then we’ll never see this again. Roger and Miller brewing should step up to the challenge as park him as well. If not his fellow drivers should vote him off the island. Right now I would bet Robby Gordon is more liked in the garage then Busch.


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