NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle – Your history defines you

Kurt Busch has been fined … again. This time it was $50,000 for his actions on pit road after the Bojangles’ Southern 500. After the race, and after tearing through Ryan Newman’s pit with the rev limiter pegged, Busch hit Ryan Newman’s Chevrolet on pit lane with their cars ending up caught together from the damage. While Busch claimed it was an accident because he lost control while removing his helmet, the end result was that Busch once again was in the eye of a storm that was started through his inability to control his anger. While dealing with anger management can be similar to dealing with an addiction, this is at least the third incident for which Busch has been fined and the second incident in six months. While he is a former champion and a tremendous driving talent, Busch needs to realize that if he cannot behave like an adult, he’s should probably look into another line of work.

Last November, Kurt Busch was fined $50,000 for verbally berating Dr. Jerry Punch and making an obscene gesture. Not only did his actions result in Busch’s wallet being considerably lighter, they also cost him one of the most iconic jobs in the sport as the driver of the Penske Racing No. 22 Dodge. That fine came six years after Busch lost his job as a driver for Jack Roush. One year after winning the series championship in 2004, Busch was out of his ride at Roush Fenway thanks to an alleged drunk driving incident–and an exchange of words with the officer who pulled him over–that ultimately resulted in just a reckless driving charge, and a lack of commitment from Roush. The next year, Busch was voted the third most hated athlete behind Barry Bonds and Terrell Owens.

After a 2006 season without incident, Busch had an issue with Tony Stewart at Dover in 2007 that ended with Busch hitting Stewart’s car on pit road and sending a crew member leaping out of the way. He was parked for the remainder of the race and fined $100,000 plus 100 championship points. The following February, at Daytona, Busch and Stewart tangled during practice for the Bud Shootout and Busch ran into Stewart as the two headed toward pit lane. The end result saw both drivers placed on probation for the first six races of the season.

Busch has also had issues with Jimmie Johnson. The two of them had contact at Sonoma in 2009 which was followed by contact at Chicago. A year later they had another incident at Pocono. While they claim to have buried the hatchet, there is no doubt it very well could surface again.

Don’t forget Busch’s interactions with Jimmy Spencer either. The two drivers tangled at Phoenix in 2001, Bristol and Indianapolis in 2002 and finally at Michigan in 2003. While Busch was never fined despite his admission that the contact had come by intentionally trying to cut Spencer’s tire, the incident was the first glimpse into the angry side of Kurt Busch as the young driver waited on track for Spencer after an incident and made a rude gesture toward him.

NASCAR always maintains that their fines and decisions are independent of each other and that previous infractions are not supposed to have an impact on current decisions. However, it is hard to deny that Busch bumping into a car on pit lane, not throwing any punches and ultimately having to be protected from an attack by one of Newman’s crew members still cost him $50,000. Last year, Busch’s brother was nearly attacked by Kevin Harvick on pit lane, ran Harvick’s car into the inside pit wall, and the crews ended up clashing before they could get back to their haulers. That transgression only cost Harvick and Busch $25,000 each, and both of them also have a history of losing their cool behind the wheel.

While the fines for Busch are specifically for the infamous section 12-1, actions detrimental violations, NASCAR is obviously trying to send a message here. Not only did the incident occur on pit lane, but Busch had another epic meltdown on the radio, this one rivaling the infamous monkey having intercourse with a football rant from Richmond last year. NASCAR knows that the fans listen to the private conversations that occur on the radios and, while the fans are even warned by some teams before the race starts, they are a part of the image of the sport. When Busch is going off dropping f-bombs like water over Niagara Falls, it is a black eye for the sport.

In December 2011, Busch announced that he was seeing a sports psychologist.

“I need to be a better person on the radio, to the team, as a leader. It’s personal issues, of course, and working with a sports psychologist, I’ve gotten obviously a small grasp, but there’s obviously bigger things that I need to accomplish and things can’t happen overnight.”

While Busch admits it can’t happen overnight, just like overcoming an addiction, there are relapses. But when the relapses ultimately result in him utilizing a 3,400 pound car as a weapon, and putting other people’s lives in danger, the problem reaches beyond just him. Busch may lose his job with James Finch, he may not, but whatever comes of this, he needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. He needs to look in his closet and see if he still has his leather jacket that he received in 2004, put it on and remember all of the appearances and requirements he had when he was a champion. Just because the calendar turns over to another year and someone else is crowned the new champ, the title and image lasts for the rest of his life. Hopefully his history that defines him can get back to Cup series champion and away from crazed, insane, radio-screaming nut job.

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