Toni Montgomery · Thursday October 27, 2005
This was supposed to be truck week but a funny thing happened on my way to a truck column. I was trying to settle on a topic for this week but every time I’d try to think about it, a Busch column kept horning it’s way in. At first it was just the idea, but the harder I tried to concentrate on the trucks, the more this Busch column kept appearing. By the time the first several paragraphs had materialized, I finally gave in and decided to go ahead and write the Busch column. Funny thing about writing. Sometimes you write the words, other times it seems like you just channel them. They come from nowhere. But, since they insist, here we go.
One of the issues I’ve heard from several readers recently about the Busch Series has been the frequency of Busch drivers getting run over by Cup drivers. With up to 19 Cup drivers running in Busch races, I guess it’s inevitable that some of them will meet up unexpectedly on the track. Accidents happen. However, there has been some concern that it happens a little too often and with something of impunity.
Take Johnny Sauter for example. He was "dropkicked" as one reader put it by Carl Edwards a couple of weeks ago at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The thing is, Edwards is well-liked, so the incident was glossed over. After all, Carl Edwards wouldn’t do something like that. Television commentators made excuses for him. But it didn’t sit well with everyone. Sauter wasn’t too pleased for one. Neither were fans who didn’t buy the excuses that were made. These are, after all, the elite Cup drivers were talking about. They’re supposed to know better. They’re supposed to be the best of the best. They’re not supposed to just run other drivers over.
Maybe it was glossed over just this once because Edwards is a media darling but I don’t think so. It seems no matter who has done it this season, and Edwards isn’t the only one, there was no fuss made about it. I seem to remember Matt Kenseth driving right over David Green at the spring Lowe’s race. Again, excuses were made along with an effort to quickly forget it happened. I doubt Green forgot it quite so easy.
Think I’m making a big deal about nothing? I don’t. And I’ll prove it. Let’s go back to Johnny Sauter for a moment. Sauter makes occasional Cup Series starts for his Busch owner, James Finch. Sauter has behaved himself so far, but let’s say he gets into a dispute over space with a Cup driver. Sauter is an aggressive driver and is just as likely to solve that dispute by simply taking what he wants. It’s fair to say that could be what happened to him in the Lowe’s Busch race, only he was on the receiving end. But let’s say Sauter runs over a Cup driver in a Cup race instead. Is he going to have excuses made for him? Will it be glossed over? Maybe, if he happens to run over a back marker, but let’s say he runs over a Chaser. I imagine the yelling will be long and loud.
It could have something to do with the individual driver. As I said, Carl Edwards is well-liked and a media darling. There is a certain perception of him. Sauter has quite a few fans too, but he’s a different sort of personality. While Carl has his "Aw Shucks" Opie Taylor thing going on, Sauter is aggressive and hard charging. Edwards tends to win over most groups, not just his fans, while Sauter can be a little difficult to warm up to for those not already devoted to him. It could factor into the reaction, but I don’t think it’s the only thing that contributes.
As I said before, the Cup drivers are perceived to be the best of the best. So I think when they run over someone, it’s looked at in a different way. Oh, that had to be an accident. A Cup driver would never do anything like that. Maybe they’ll even blame the Busch driver. He must have done something to cause that accident because the Cup driver couldn’t possibly be solely responsible for the incident. Flip that around if a Busch driver should run over a Cup driver in a Cup race. Well, we all know why that happened. It happened because so and so is just a Busch driver. He’s not good enough or he’s too inexperienced to know better.
I used Johnny Sauter as my example even though I understand that non-fans may have a strong opinion of him that clouds this point. So let’s say instead that it’s Reed Sorenson. Or maybe Clint Bowyer. Or even Martin Truex. All quite capable and well-liked Busch drivers. Truex has already made a number of Cup appearances and has shown well, proving that while he may be light on experience, he definitely knows what he’s doing. Imagine any one of these drivers running in a Cup race to get some experience toward their rookie quests next season. Imagine they run over Ryan Newman or Tony Stewart. See what I mean? Somehow it’s not such a non-issue as it was when the Cup drivers ran over them in the Busch races.
If you’re not one of the group that has already noticed this issue, what I want you to do is pay careful attention during the remaining Busch Series races. Note carefully how often it does happen that Busch regulars get shoved around by Cup drivers. Even if they don’t wreck, just note it. Also take note of the reaction, if any, by the television crew. If we should happen to see any Busch drivers do the same thing in the remaining Cup races, take note of that reaction too. I know the Cup drivers are running in the Busch Series to win races rather than score points but I don’t think it gives them license to run over those who are looking for those points. And I think they need to stop and think about the fact that they expect that courtesy from the Busch drivers who run Cup races. They should be prepared to give that same courtesy when they run Busch races.
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