_The championship Chase may be over, one final chapter for the 2011 season complete in the form of a Tony Stewart – Carl Edwards battle for the ages. But, surprising as it may be to hear considering the last 48 hours there’s also something else we should remind you of: 40-something other Sprint Cup drivers, crew chiefs, and cars still exist. Hidden under the smokescreen of a historic title race, the rest of the garage left us with plenty of loose ends to tie up before heading off to hibernation for the winter._
_Lucky for you, this season-ending edition of Fact or Fiction is on the case. Read on to see what changes and controversies you might have missed in the midst of… dare I say it … Chase mania over Homestead’s 400-mile finale._
*FACT: Jerry Punch Is Owed An Apology From Kurt Busch*
A Busch brother is at it again. On Sunday, following his broken transmission a fan captured “disturbing video of Kurt Busch”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsaBQq5D4Zg raging against one of the most respected reporters in the NASCAR biz: ESPN’s Dr. Jerry Punch. After shouting expletives towards Punch, who was simply trying to gather information for an on-air interview the driver quickly loses patience with his question. Then, later on in the video he loses patience with NASCAR’s television network; frustrated it’s taking too long for the cameras to come to him, he berates Punch once more before storming off to his hauler in frustration.
One would think, considering Busch’s recent conflicts with two reporters at Richmond in September he would know better by now than to lose all semblance of self-control. Instead, this incident with Punch is right in step with his “norm,” a third strike in what’s been a souring relationship with the media for some time.
Now, I’m not saying Busch needs to be courteous 24/7. There are certainly times where the media deserves to be called out for their transgressions… but not in this case. Busch’s actions towards Punch were uncalled for, borderline physical in nature and deserve an apology. In fact, you wonder how many more of these incidents need to happen before NASCAR steps in; at some point, doesn’t the sanctioning body have an obligation to physically protect their working media? Once is a mistake, twice is a pattern… three times, and a simple slap on the wrist won’t get it done.
*FICTION: Drew Blickensderfer Is The Answer For Jeff Burton*
I’ve been arguing for weeks that Jeff Burton and Luke Lambert, the interim crew chief that worked magic with the No. 31 Chevy down the stretch should stay together for 2012. Sadly, owner Richard Childress doesn’t agree; reports from FOX Sports have David Ragan’s former crew chief, Drew Blickensderfer hired to fill that head wrench role every Sunday.
Huh? I’ve spoken at length about the chemistry injection Lambert’s added; Burton ended this year with four top-10 results in five races to surge inside the top 20 in points. As for Blickensderfer? He and Ragan were nowhere to be found on that list; the duo landed 23rd in points, saddled with more DNFs (five) then top-5 finishes (four) while floundering at the back of the Roush-Fenway fleet. Ragan did score two poles, along with a win in July’s Daytona Speed Dating 400 but overall never flashed the consistency to be a top-10 runner every week.
Sure, two years ago “Drew Blick” was the talk of NASCAR Nation; his partnership with Matt Kenseth began with two wins in the first two races of 2009. But that team went on to miss the Chase that year, a first for Kenseth in the six years of the format and Blick gradually wore out his welcome.
With those types of inconsistent statistics, one wonders why Childress should shell out the big bucks for a “big name” crew chief. Sometimes, it’s far easier to take chances with what you already have.
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