Summer Bedgood · Friday May 18, 2012
Will Kurt Busch ever learn?
Kurt Busch’s expletive filled tirade and pit road scuffle at Darlington Raceway pretty much solidified what I’ve been saying all year: Kurt Busch hasn’t changed at all, and anyone who thought he had was in denial. Busch may have been cheery and grateful for a ride at the beginning of the season, but seriously … who isn’t happy at the beginning of the season?! During SpeedWeeks in Daytona, every driver is just one corporate-laden interview away from skipping down the garage area and throwing out free samples with a rainbow trailing behind them. The beginning of the year is a fresh start for everyone, and thus everyone is optimistic and filled with good intentions.
As the season chugs along, however, the grind of being at a different track every weekend starts to wear on the drivers and teams, and the contenders and pretenders are clearly defined. Tempers start to rise and desperation starts to set in. In other words, their true colors start to show.
The thing with Busch, though, was how forced his interviews seemed. I remember watching his seemingly rehearsed interview following a crash in the Budweiser Shootout and he looked like he was sucking lemon juice while giving said interview. I even said something about it in this very column back in February.
Don’t think the $50,000 fine will do anything for him either. The real Busch is here to stay.
Why can’t NASCAR draw a finer line regarding “having at it”?
NASCAR gets criticized almost every day for being inconsistent, and their issuance of penalties is no different. This week, the sanctioning body issued penalties to five people after the No. 39 team of Ryan Newman and the No. 51 of Kurt Busch tussled on pit road. While no points were deducted, fines and the mysterious probation were handed out like Halloween candy.
Honestly, it didn’t make much sense. I understand if Busch had been penalized for hitting Newman’s car on pit road. That would have gone along with their thought process following the Kyle Busch/Kevin Harvick issue on pit road at Darlington last year. But instead NASCAR decided to penalize a couple of the crew members involved, along with the crew chief. Continuing with the team of Busch/Harvick, the crew members from the No. 29 team sought out the No. 18 and started smack-talking after the incident, and the only reason it didn’t turn into an all-out brawl was because the officials were there first. Why wasn’t anything done there? Shouldn’t it be the same thing?
I understand there are some differences between the two incidents, and admittedly the penalties weren’t as severe this go around. Still, though, they were doing a lot less damage than, say, if a driver uses their car as a weapon. But, for some reason, NASCAR seems to find that much more acceptable than letting crew members settle the score harmlessly on pit road.
In NASCAR’s defense, the crew members should have stopped once the officials got involved, which also likely had some influence in the penalties. Once again, though, it doesn’t show what’s acceptable as much as it just confuses those who try and find some semblance of reason in their penalties. Even if they say they look at each incident individually, they’re going to re-create their own monster and everyone will be too worried about getting in trouble to say and do anything that might be out of line in NASCAR’s eyes. The best thing they can do is clearly spell out what is and isn’t acceptable verbally rather than playing it as they go.
Can NASCAR leave the format of the All-Star race alone?
I love the All-Star race. I look forward to it every year, and think it’s one of the greatest events of the entire season. However, it’s tiring to have to re-learn the format of the race every year. I heard a statistic that of the 28 All-Star events, there have been 11 different formats. That goes past “fine-tuning” and “improving” and straight to “obsessive compulsive.” The format is never going to be perfect, and unfortunately there will be some lackluster events. The classics wouldn’t be classic without a dull ride every now and then.
Honestly, once I read through it a few times and figured out what NASCAR was doing this time around, I think they have it right. So as a personal plea to NASCAR, if the race goes well on Saturday, please leave it alone.
What if Dale Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t make the All-Star Race?
I know this is about as likely as Earnhardt losing the Most Popular Driver award, but this is actually a possibility. While it’s basically a given that Earnhardt will win the Fan Vote if he doesn’t finish in the top two in the Sprint Showdown, he has to finish on the lead lap in order to be eligible. Even though Earnhardt is the butt of many jokes because of his lack of trips to Victory Lane in recent years, he’s good enough to finish on the lead lap against some of the least competitive teams in NASCAR.
However, what if the same luck that has struck his teammate Jeff Gordon in recent weeks finds its way to Earnhardt’s ride? His engine might blow on the first lap, or he can get caught up in someone else’s mistake early on and find himself unable to recover in time for the checkered flag.
The All-Star race would certainly go on without him, but it would be quite a hit for NASCAR when their biggest star fails to make a race with the word “star” in it.
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