Race Weekend Central

Beth’s Brief: NASCAR Made Right Call in Assessing No Further Penalty to Kurt Busch

Once again, Kurt Busch stole the headlines at Talladega Superspeedway–first it was for the final race in his tenure with Phoenix Racing, but by the end of the day, it was all about NASCAR parking the driver of the No. 51 Chevrolet following a wreck. Just past the halfway point in Sunday’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500, Busch was leading the race when he ran out of gas and was tapped by Jamie McMurray. The resulting spin into the infield retaining wall left the back end of his car significantly damaged but likely repairable. Not long after safety crews arrived to assist Busch, he re-fired the car and took off toward the garage area in hopes of getting back onto the track, but without his helmet on, he missed out on a command from NASCAR to stop on the track, a move that got him parked and called to the hauler to explain his actions.

“He made an effort to get back in the car and get back in the garage, and we felt like it put some of our folks in harm’s way and we just talked to him about that,” NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said Tuesday.

Back in the garage area, Busch was calm and collected despite having been knocked out of the lead in his final start for Phoenix Racing.

“I jumped back in and I remembered with these engines, they’ll run with 20 percent fuel pressure to get it back to the garage. So I jumped back in,” Busch said. “That’s the competitor in me, that’s the desire that i have, and that’s what gets misconstrued all the time. And this is the way my life works.

“I’m not complaining. I put myself in a lot of these situations, but it’s on to good things now moving forward,” he continued. “I got all the bad luck out of the way. This year has been a great year to test me in every way.”

Of course, like any polarizing driver, opinions have been running wild since the incident about whether Busch, who is on probation with NASCAR for the remainder of the season should have been penalized further. Fast forward to Tuesday, a day that has typically been designated for penalties to be handed down, and the verdict from the sanctioning body was that no additional penalties would be assessed.

But was it the right call? In a word, yes.

While I sat here scratching my head at why the driver of the No. 51 wouldn’t have at least given the safety workers a heads up that he planned to go back to the garage for repairs, no one was injured in the incident. And despite having “ignored” a direct order from NASCAR, it wasn’t an intentional move by any means. He simply didn’t have his helmet on and didn’t hear the request, and based on how cool and collected he was in the garage area later, it’s likely if he had heard it, he would have stopped.

But what about his probation, you ask? Yes, NASCAR sent a message to Busch earlier this year when they suspended him and extended his probation for mouthing off to a reporter, but frankly, that message sank in. Since then, the 34-year-old has behaved around reporters and hadn’t gotten in trouble until Sunday when he wanted to continue to race.

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that feel like Busch should have been suspended for at least one race, if not the rest of the season, and my question to those people is why? He served his penalty when the team was forced to pack it in and head home early rather than repairing the car and getting back out on track. Sure, he’s out of the points race, and losing what points he could have gained by returning to the track didn’t hurt him as far as the standings go, but is there really a reason to tack on a penalty to one that had already been assessed?

The bottom line is that NASCAR made the right call in not penalizing Busch any further. After all, he was doing what any racer would want to do if they felt their car could be repaired enough to get back out on the track. Now, it’s time for him to move on to his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet in preparation for a full season with the organization next year.

_Author’s Note: Be sure to check out “Kevin’s Corner”:LINK HERE this week as he takes a look at Kurt Busch’s tenure with Phoenix Racing before he heads off to his new ride at Furniture Row Racing this weekend at Charlotte._

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