The Frontstretch: Did You Notice? ... Busch Brothers Burn Crew Chiefs Out, Officiating Mistakes, And NASCAR On WWE? by Thomas Bowles -- Wednesday October 28, 2009

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Did You Notice? … Both Busch brothers caused their crew chiefs to burn out at the same time? It’s ironic that NASCAR’s moodiest siblings are transitioning to new head wrenches after a similar time span: about two years. That’s how long Steve Addington worked with Kyle Busch, taking him to 12 wins and one Chase appearance, while Tryson led Busch to four and two, respectively (Tryson came on board with Busch in mid-2007).

But working with such successful drivers has its downside. As we’ve seen from both Kyle and Kurt on the radio, they have a tendency to get angry and downright abusive when the car’s handling doesn’t go their way. For Kurt, there’s the infamous incident at Martinsville last year in which his car was “so bad” (that’s the G-Rated version) he threatened to stop driving it, spurring owner Roger Penske to get on the radio and set him straight.

As for Kyle, his scanner turns NC-17 at least once every two races. Even fans of the guy who listen to him on the scanner might not want to admit it, but they’re nodding their heads in agreement right now. I had the Martinsville weekend off, so I wasn’t perusing the scanner then but at Charlotte he was saying things that would have made even the late George Carlin blush.

I know that in sports, we expect this type of talk to come from frustrated athletes. But imagine yourself in your full-time office job for a second. How would you feel if once a week, someone else came in and spent the day totally berating you? Regardless of whether you were successful or not, they disparaged your work, insulted your mother, and spent the day swearing and carrying on about the most minor problems – all in the name of “being at your competitive best.”

Unless they’re in Victory Lane, it’s hard to find many pictures of Kyle Busch happy with Steve Addington.

Chances are you’d be gone within a few months, right? Well, it’s amazing that Steve Addington lasted two years. Ditto for Tryson, as Kurt Busch is now on his fourth full-time crew chief since going over to Penske in 2006. The only man capable of keeping Kurt in line was old school, tough-as-nails Jimmy Fennig, a man who’s notorious for not taking any flak from his drivers. But considering one of the reasons Kurt Busch left Roush back in 2005 is he didn’t feel like he would ever be the “number one” driver within that organization, is it any wonder a growing independence left their relationship heading in the wrong direction at the end?

As for younger brother Kyle and previous crew chief Alan Gustafson, all accounts are Kyle was a different guy when he first moved into the Cup Series in 2005, cockiness coming hand-in-hand with success achieved in ’06 and the first part of ’07. Had Busch stayed at Hendrick, you wonder if Gustafson would have remained crew chief there in 2008 because he seemed to be at his wits’ end by the time the two parted ways.

The moral of the story here: beware, because these partnerships don’t seem to be built to last. And so it was with Addington, who could never quite get the feedback needed to dial in the No. 18 Toyota on intermediate tracks this year. In the end, that’s what led to their on-track unraveling, as this quick list of stats will show you:

Kyle Busch 2009 Stats
Short Tracks (.5 – .99 Mi.) : 6 starts, 3 wins, 5 top 5s, 5 top 10s
Restrictor Plate Superspeedways (2.5 Mi.) : 3 starts, 0 top 10s (But 131 Laps Led)
Pocono & Indianapolis (2.5 Mi.): 3 starts, 0 top 10s (But admittedly two of Busch’s worst tracks)
Road Courses: 2 starts, 1 top 5, 1 top 10
One-Mile Ovals: 5 Starts, 1 top 5, 2 top 10s
Intermediates (1.5-2 Mi.): 13 starts, 1 win, 2 top 5s, 4 top 10s (with one top 10 and just 33 laps led in seven starts since Memorial Day)

Considering those intermediates make up five of ten tracks in the Chase, it’s a no brainer J.D. Gibbs wanted to try something new to turn things around. The question will be whether Dave Rogers can be the type of personality capable of dealing with Busch when he starts rampaging inside the car. It’s one thing to work with him in the Nationwide Series, where JGR has equipment far and above that of its closest competitors. But when Busch is running 20th with the Hendrick cars about to lap him, unleashing a verbal tirade that would make your grandmother blush, how will he react? That’s the million dollar question (literally, considering how much of a difference there is between 12th and 13th in points these days). Also keep in mind Rogers’ Cup record is far from stellar, with a grand total of zero top 5 finishes in less than one season working with beleaguered driver Jason Leffler.

In the end, it’s a change Gibbs felt they had to make. But you wonder if letting Rogers work with Logano while Greg Zipadelli – a no-nonsense guy used to dealing with a temperamental driver – would have been a better fit. Because the only guy that wins when you pair a G-Rated crew chief with Kyle Busch is the doctor who’ll end up prescribing him anti-depressants.

Did You Notice?NASCAR was having a bit of a problem assessing penalties consistently at Martinsville? There were two blatant incidents in particular that disturbed me. First up was Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s flat tire that caused the third caution of the day, one where Junior stopped on the track to get one on Lap 90. The circumstances were similar to when Denny Hamlin stopped on the track last May, trying desperately to force a yellow after dominating Richmond until a flat right front tire ruined his night.

Here’s the difference: in that scenario, as NASCAR usually does, Hamlin was penalized an extra lap for “intentionally causing a caution,” as stated in Section 9-11 of the NASCAR rulebook. So my question is Earnhardt’s situation was different … how? Instead of trying to get to pit road, he felt the right move was to stop in the middle of the track … just like Hamlin. The motive in doing so was to keep from losing an additional lap … just like Hamlin. Yet when the cars restarted on Lap 94, Earnhardt found himself running on the tail end of the lead lap, seemingly rewarded for his “misdeed” while Hamlin ended his fateful day at Richmond three laps down in 24th.

But that wasn’t the only officiating mistake. On Lap 177, replays showed contact with the front bumper of Martin Truex, Jr. caused David Stremme to drift into teammate Sam Hornish, Jr. coming off Turn 2. In an instant, the No. 77 car lost control, spinning hard into the backstretch wall and causing a caution. As the first car one lap down, that left Truex eligible for the Lucky Dog … except he shouldn’t have gotten it. Again, according to Section 10-4.1 of the NASCAR rules: “A car will not be eligible for the free pass when, in the judgment of NASCAR officials, the car was involved in or the reason for the caution.”

Seems like a pretty cut and dry incident to me – except Truex was back on the lead lap and ready to race through the field five laps later.

Look, in the grand scheme of things neither officiating mistake made a big difference in the outcome of the race. Several melted beads let to flat tires that sidelined Earnhardt, while Truex was never a serious factor and came home 28th, two laps back. But when the sanctioning body is struggling to come to grips with these basic rules, how big a surprise is it they’re showing inconsistency at some of the bigger moments of the race, such as the “mystery” debris cautions of recent weeks or hesitating on throwing the yellow during the final lap – no matter what the situation?

I’m going to leave you to stew on that answer, but the real question is what the sport’s going to do about their officiating. Over in other sports, we’ve seen the SEC step up this week and punish those responsible for missed calls in college football games. But when’s the last time you’ve ever seen NASCAR man up and admit they made a bad call on an in-race decision? Even an apology to some fans and drivers in certain situations would do much to restore the basic respect that should exist between the sport itself and those who follow it.

Unfortunately, right now that respect continues to erode, from the most minor of mistakes to the biggest controversies facing the sport today. And it’s an issue that won’t go away until the sanctioning body does something to address it.

Did You Notice? … Jimmie Johnson’s selective speeding on pit road? Juan Pablo Montoya certainly did, and so did the ESPN broadcast crew who noted Johnson’s times were almost one full second faster than Montoya’s during certain stops. What the No. 48 was doing is consistent with their motto since the beginning of their existence: push the rules to the ragged edge without doing enough to get “caught.” Needless to say, Johnson knows exactly where the timing lines are, knowing where he can get away with a few extra MPH and when he can’t. And if you pick a pit stall just in front of a timing line, that gives you just enough extra room to have a brief burst of speed that could help you pick off one, two, maybe more cars on pit road.

Chad Knaus has a well-earned rep for pushing the rule book to the breaking point… and Jimmie Johnson’s driving on pit road was proof positive that practice has rubbed off on the longtime No. 48 driver.

In Johnson’s defense, he didn’t even need the extra help on Sunday, as his crew never lost him a spot on pit road all day (although their last green flag stop cost them valuable time to Hamlin on the race track). But it’s just another way in which this team finds the “gray areas” within every rule they can to gain an edge.

The problem is, of course, plenty of people might call that “cheating” even though the No. 48 team would tell you they’re playing within the rules. So how do you stop this little advantage? Two ways. The first would be to publicize all pit road speeding information electronically, with a transponder in the car going off the second a car goes 56 miles an hour (if the limit’s 55) to clearly indicate a penalty. The technology is there to make that process happen … but as we’ve seen, NASCAR doesn’t really like to make all its officiating open to the public (See: Engine Post-Race Inspection).

So I’ve got a second plan that might work. Since they don’t show teams specific areas where they sped anyways … why give any indication where the timing lines are? Make that a secret that only you and your software equipment/providers know heading into each race. Sure, you’ll still let the drivers know where the Pit In and Pit Out lines are, but with no clear markings on the race track anywhere else the extra timing lines will be a complete and total mystery. Because the bottom line of it all is if you’re speeding on pit road, you’re speeding on pit road, period. You shouldn’t get to accelerate in between timing lines to sneak ahead, for obvious safety and fairness reasons.

Did You Notice? … My new “Quick Hits” Feature before we go…

  • ESPN’s taken a lot of criticism this season, but I can’t get enough of Jeff Burton’s promo about how he describes NASCAR and wrecks. Between the music, the way Burton speaks, and the slow motion replays, my heart’s always pumping by the end. Definitely the best promo they’ve done on the sport this year. And no, it’s NOT because of carnage on TV. It’s because of the way it reminds me how these drivers take it to the ragged edge.

  • Kyle Busch and Joey Logano on WWE? I have to tell you, I was never a wrestling guy, so I’ll admit to journalistic bias here. The second I turned on the program Monday night, I felt my IQ went down 10 points, and all I could do was laugh every two minutes when I thought back to the South Park episode on this very subject two weeks back (I’m sure there’s plenty of fans that know what I’m talking about).

But all kidding aside, love or hate wrestling that was one of the best cameos for the sport all year. Yeah, Joey and Kyle looked like two giant dorks up against the pure athletic talent of these wrestlers. But they played their parts well, and introduced the sport in a flashy way to an audience NASCAR is desperately trying to win over: Males 18-34. Maybe, just maybe, a few of those fans will tune in to see those WWE cars race in the Nationwide Series at Texas next week. But no good PR stunt will get rewarded unless there’s a good race attached that’ll leave ‘em coming back for more …

Tom Bowles is now on Twitter! Click HERE to become a follower… even though he’s still learning how to use it (be patient on that one!)

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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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10/28/2009 04:13 AM

There is really no way to prevent the type of “speeding” that the 48 team is doing on pit road, given the current technology na$car uses for measuring speed. And hats off, by the way, to that team for figuring a little “edge” there, I remember when racing was about free thinking and innovation, but I digress.

Na$car does not measure speed the way we are used to in our vehicles, where the speed is measured mechanically, or by “radar” like law enforcement, but rather by timing the car between two known points, much like a drag race. In this case the known points are hard wired transponder loops buried in the surface of the ractrack and pit road. There are only a limited number of loops, and the locations are all well known to Na$car, the teams, drivers, and to fans if one were to bother to look close at the track for the lines, kind of like the lines you see in the asphalt for a red light sensor. The trick they are using is in that once the car is stopped in a pit stall, the fact that it is not moving for a period of time makes the reading from that transponder loop useless. Nature of the beast. Normally does not matter as within that particular loop, the car is most likely decelerating into the pit stall, the accelerating up to speed, basically no time to speed anyway. So if you pick your pit stall just past a loop, you can basically go as fast as you want til the next loop when exiting, as there is no way to measure it. Brilliant thinking! I am only sorry that some bright boy in the booth brought it to the attention of the other teams. Now Chad will have to pull another trick out of his bag.

One interesting thing though, that just made qualifying a bit more important! We known for years that the first pit is valuable, but after that, not a lot of difference. Now there is a difference!


ok, enough soap for one day.

10/28/2009 06:33 AM

Joey and Kyle on WWE – I have never watched wrestling in my life but I tuned in to see Joey (one of my favorite drivers)on WWE Raw Monday night. It was definately a smart marketing move by Game Stop and Z-line. You never know where future fans will be! The only reason I became a fan of NASCAR at all (in 2005) was because one of the drivers was featured on MTV Cribs (I am a female fan and he was cute). You will be happy to know that since I am more savvy now, I pick my drivers based on performance & ability, not looks.

10/28/2009 07:34 AM

Of course he was speeding—and again, not cheating. He was taking advantage of the rules presented to him.

NASCAR’s retarded aversion to all things technology is not only dangerous, but makes for some seriously ruined days for drivers who speed in the heat of battle. It’s absurd that they don’t have pit road speed limiters. ABSURD. They’re easy to police—NASCAR just refuses to change.

The Turnip!
10/28/2009 07:39 AM

RE: LACK OF CONSISTENCY on rules application!

Am I the only one that really wants to throw up when NA$CRAP
“selectively” enforces, and interprets the rules?

It’s a JOKE!

Remember that (infamous) word? CREDIBILITY!

The Turnip!
10/28/2009 07:50 AM

Dang! I forgot!

Your mention of the WWE!

Just recently, Lisa France (it is Lisa right?), won THE WOMAN’S BEST SPORTS EXECUTIVE, or something like that anyway.

And who was in second place? The Gal that runs the WWE!

So, “sports woman of the year” was decided by two organizations that promote “phony” and “scripted” sports!

Check it out!

10/28/2009 09:06 AM

I would be curious. NASCAR “created” the CHASE in their “LABOOORATORYYY” (alittle spooky halloween flavor!) to add excitement for “us” fans. What I would like to know is..does NASCAR keep tabs..take polls, even care..about how this is working out for us? How excited are “us” fans? We tell them..the officiating is alittle suspect, penalties and fines seem skewed, where is the debris in over half the “debris cautions”, what’s with this “wave around” 4 times a race and winning or getting a top 3, when are we going to race cars and NOT COTS, why is the season sosososososo long, is there really such a thing is a “tolerance” consistent for all teams, what’s with these start and parks, and if you’re going to have a 12 driver 10 race can you do it fairly with 31 other cars on the same track? Just wondering about these..and other issues. AND speaking of the this will fix the“Kenseth” issue CHASE…how’s that working out for them? I never channel surfed the years prior to the Chase..but my remote is smoking midway through the racing now!

The Turnip!
10/28/2009 09:14 AM

Hey Josie! Your “does NASCAR keep tabs..take polls, even care..about how this is working out for us? How excited are “us” fans?”

NA$CRAP gives a rat’s a** about what the fans think!

NA$CRAP “says” they care, but have NEVER done anything that the fans asked for!

NA$CRAP, last year, formed a “fan advisory group”, all of course for advertising purposes, BUT NOTHING was every again mentioned about what this group “recommended”!

So, no, NA$CRAP simply does not care what you, I, or anyone else thinks or wants!

No wonder the stands are empty, and the TV ratings lower than a snakes belly!

10/28/2009 09:17 AM

The 48 isn’t cheating. They’re just playing by the rules they are given. They are taking advantage of the ineptness of NA$CAR.

10/28/2009 09:19 AM

Zippy has only dealt with one explosive Cup driver, Stewart, and it worked because they became like brothers, not because Greg has any “skill” with that type. He wouldn’t be any better for Kyle, just like putting Chad with Dale Jr wouldn’t help. Despite wins it was clear to me for a long time that Kyle/Steve wasn’t ever going to “gel” like Tony/Zippy, or Jimmie/Chad, or any of the other great combos. Sure lets try Rogers again at Cup level, this time with a stellar driver, and see what happens. He’s CC’ed Kyle before and knows what steel it takes. Figuring out what to do with the COT will be harder.
PS I’m LMAO at reports suggesting Addington might want Kurt Busch’s CC job. LOL!!!!!

10/28/2009 09:56 AM

The 48 is doing the same thing every other team is doing. This is not something that was just figured out. Teams have been doing this for YEARS! I remember this practice being pointed out last year, and the year before. So, it was pointed out based on an accusation. Any team is within the rules if they do that.

It’s like picking a pit stall in front of the start/finish line. You hope that under a caution, the leader will be pitting before the start/finish line and everyone who pits in front of you is behind you on the track so that you can lead a lap by being the 1st car to pass the start/finish line.

10/28/2009 10:13 AM

I totally agree, about the bias, favoritism, & just plain missed calls by the NA$CAR officials.
However to do anything about them would require NA$CAR to admit that problems exist. Something they seem pathologically unable to do.

10/28/2009 10:53 AM

Theres a big difference between most sports and NASCAR when it comes to officiating . Most of the race calls ( pit road calls are made by individuals actually in each pit box ) are made from the tower . Read that John Darby , and in some cases Mike Helton . Who do you think is going to reprimand those two for bad calls ?

10/28/2009 10:57 AM

Easy answer, Mark … a commissioner / CEO with an actual backbone.

10/28/2009 12:08 PM

Tom —- excellent comments about the Busch brothers and their inability to work in a constructive manner with their crew chiefs. Kurt seems to have grown up a little bit (at least when he has a microphone and camera in front of him) but Kyle is something else. I admit that all I know about him is what I see and hear on TV, but he is (IMHO) a very rude, obnoxious, arrogant … person.

Bad Wolf
10/28/2009 12:22 PM

Once while I was at the Indy 500 Big Al Unser had something go wrong, can’t remember if it was in the pits, and the expletives went on non stop for over 3 laps. Kurt and Kyle are mere pikers compared to some of the old gaurd I’ve heard at the track.

One of the reasons I left Nascar is the favoritism shown to certain drivers, especially June Boy, and the BS cautions for nothing more than tape or imaginary debrie. That and the clowns in the Faux booth.

I saw the South Park episode you speak of, and I feel like the coach who kept yelling “That’s not real wrestling!!”, but in my case I’m yelling “That’s not real racing!!” while Brain France is in the booth watching the scripted show saying “That’s some of the best racing I’ve ever seen!!”

10/28/2009 12:49 PM

This weeks DYN is severly disappointing, at best.
I don’t even know where to start. But I do know where to end!

10/28/2009 12:50 PM

As someone else pointed out above, this has been going on for YEARS. Ever watch pit stops before electronic timing? Guys would speed through turns in the pit road, gun it as they broke off to pit before slowing down, speed when leaving their pit box until they got to one of the visual timing lines, etc…

It is simply a by-product of enforcing speed by measuring time… anything that effects the time/distance parts of the equation can be used for advantage. If you want to enforce speed limits, then measure speed.

Kevin in SoCal
10/28/2009 01:06 PM


And you really think the drivers would race the exact same way, and the points would be the exact same as they are now, if there was not a Chase? I dont.

10/28/2009 01:24 PM

Bowles doesn’t watch races or have a clue what’s going on. He just picks things he can misrepresent and sensationalize to make a column.

Managing Editor
10/28/2009 01:29 PM

Hey Linda,

You caught me! I’ve actually been watching races blindfolded AND with earplugs since 1989. Absolutely no clue or idea what’s happening on the track. In fact, I thought Kyle Busch was a wrestler until they clarified on the WWE Monday night.

Thanks for reading and writing in, though!

10/28/2009 01:31 PM

Hmm…seems like Jr. might lose ANOTHER crew chief. Where’s the story?

And it’s not Kyle’s fault the team showed up at Chicago with a terrible car. That team have done that at several races this year. Why? Have they lost all their notes from the previous year?

10/28/2009 01:42 PM

nas#crap and the WWE mentioned in the same paragraph. What a f**king surprise. Johnson’s speeding is just another case of “selective” punishment in nas$crap. Why bother finishing this lame excuse of a championship. Hendricks Cup indeed. Oh sorry. I’m beating the dead horse again. Poor horse. He was alive until Nero Francy pants came along. Keep fiddling Nero. What’s left of your empire is burning all around you. nas$crap is the WWE in a transparent disguise. A ghoul with no soul.

The Turnip!
10/28/2009 01:54 PM

Hey Linda! So where you going with your “constructive” comment?

Seems to me you are the one that needs to watch these “events”! (not races as you might notice)

I’m waiting!

10/28/2009 03:18 PM

It would be nice to see the pit road speed limit enforced a bit better: the pit road speed limit was instituted for safety. Safety rules shouldn’t have wiggle room.

That said, the #48 speeding on pit road shouldn’t be penalized as such, since he’s operating under the same rules as everyone else, and everyone knows the rules going in.

10/28/2009 06:02 PM

To those that think all drivers get away with the “time between loops” speeding. Think again. Several races ago, the 43 cars had managed to stay in the top ten almost to the end of the race. He came into the pits with the 00. The 00 slowed down, which caused the non-speeding 43 to pass him. na$cars calls that passing on pit lane an holds him a lap.

Now, how many times has jj passed a car on pit road? The camera has caught him doing it no less than 5 times in the past three races. And when I say passing, I mean actually going by cars that are on his right as he is accelerating. In one spot, he passed three cars. Do you know how many of those times he was held a lap like they held the 43 car? Yep, a big fat goose egg. Not once. That’s what you call a consistant application of the rules. ;/ It is also what you call a fabricated championship to “make history”.


10/28/2009 06:10 PM

I cannot find the referenced “Engine Post-Race Inspection” is that a broken link?



Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

Did You Notice? ... Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
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