June 10, 2012
By Jim Fitzgerald
So, there’s this guy, right? This guy, he is one of the most talented race car drivers in the world.
This driver has been on the pole for races many times. He has even won multiple races, and he was the 2004 Sprint Cup Series Champion.
This guy drives in the most high-profile series in the United States, arguably one of the highest in the world. He makes decent money, lives well, and his wit and candor has the fans hanging on his words. He should be having the time of his life, all sunshine and smiles.
But he is throwing it all away. For the fourth time in the last eight months, the moment got the better of Kurt Busch, and has landed him and his race teams in trouble with NASCAR.
September 2011 -- Jamie Little, walking down the pit lane with Kurt Busch asks if Kurt is okay with answering a question. Kurt’s response was “Why the (expletive) do you think I would I be okay? I gotta go get into my car. NASCAR says I have to go get in my car.”
November 2011 -- The famous Kurt Busch and Jerry Punch incident occurs. (Remember this was after giving the vehicle that was part of Michelle Obama’s motorcade the one finger salute.) This is the well known highly publicized incident when Jerry Punch was trying to interview Kurt after Kurt exited the Ford 400 at Homestead early.
Kurt lost his patience waiting for the live feed to come to Jerry Punch. This led Kurt to swear multiple times at Punch, to the point where Punch cancelled the interview and walked away, leaving Kurt to enter his hauler in anger.
This incident with Jerry Punch would be the final straw for the executives at Penske Racing, who “mutually agreed to part ways” with Kurt Busch. Busch’s future as a driver was up in the air at that point. Speculations of where Kurt would drive next were running rampant.
It was suggested that he may go to Richard Petty Motorsports or maybe he would be a teammate to his brother Kyle at Joe Gibbs Racing. Finally an announcement was made that Busch had a “handshake agreement” with car owner James Finch and Phoenix Racing. Many felt this was quite appropriate as Kurt’s career, due to his struggles in and out of the car, would need to rise from the ashes and resurrect itself.
May 2012 -- Kurt is entangled in a caution towards the late stages of the race at Darlington. When leaving his pit stall after the crew had serviced the car, Busch executed a mini-burnout in the pit stall of Ryan Newman’s No. 39 ride, endangering the safety of some of Newman’s crew. It was at this point that NASCAR stepped in and put Kurt Busch on probation until July 25th, 2012.
He never made it that far.
After finishing third in the 5-Hour Energy 200 Nationwide Series race at Dover, Busch had a conversation with Justin Algaier, with whom Busch had “conversations” during the event itself. The confrontation dissipated harmlessly enough, and the two men went their separate ways.
It was, however, during a post race interview that Busch lost control of his emotions once again. Noted NASCAR media staple, Bob Pockrass, asked Kurt if the way that he raced with Algaier was impacted by his probation. Kurt responded with, “It refrains me from not beating the (expletive) out of you right now because you ask me stupid questions. But since I’m on probation I suppose that’s improper to say as well. If you could talk about racing things, we could talk about racing things, Bob.”
Pockrass retorted that he was talking about racing, and Busch cut him off, saying that Pockrass was only there to “start stuff.”
Now, for you fans of Kurt Busch who are going to jump on me for jumping on Kurt, put your guns back in the holsters. I have a short memory, and I came into this season wishing nothing but the best for Busch in his new beginning with Phoenix Racing. I was willing to let everything go, despite my admiration for Jerry Punch, as well as Roger Penske, who Busch had rained profanities upon as well.
Kurt Busch had a clean slate. As the year unfolded, and the probation came, the support began to go once again. Now, Kurt’s latest actions, threatening a member of the media -- whether it was acted upon or not, have made me rethink my clemency.
So, I went back and did some research. I had forgotten about Kurt Busch tearing a piece of paper from Jenna Fryer and ripping it up during a press conference following a race at Richmond. I had forgotten about Kurt Busch using his car as a weapon against Tony Stewart. I forgot about a $10,000.00 fine for intentionally running into Robby Gordon in 2002. I forgot about probation for rough driving in 2003. I remembered him being fired from Roush Fenway, but I forgot about a six week probation in 2008. All of this is in addition to Kurt treating his car owners, his crew chiefs, and crew members like garbage.
I am not trying to change anyone’s opinion of Kurt Busch. Everyone has freewill and can make their own decisions. But for those of you who think I am making this up, or have forgotten, feel free to check YouTube for a documentary called “Kurt Busch: Rageaholic.” It is a one-hour and fourteen-minute journey through Kurt Busch’s NASCAR career, and it is rather eye opening. If you’re sensitive to rough language, you may want to bypass it. While Busch has the reputation of speaking in four-letter words, there are several printable words in Busch’s vocabulary as well. One of them is “respect.” I see Kurt Busch demanding a lot of respect, but what I fail to see is Kurt Busch giving respect. In order to get it, I think you have to give it.
Busch has now been suspended for today's race at Pocono, and his probation has been extended to the end of the year.
James Finch, owner of Phoenix Racing has said he will talk with Kurt, and they will decide if the “handshake agreement” will continue. Finch, however, does not hold the cards. He may certainly decide Busch’s immediate driving future, but there is only one person who can save Busch from himself, and that is Kurt Busch.
One day, there will be a confrontation, and one Kurt Busch will win, and one Kurt Busch will lose. I don’t know who will win, but I am pulling for a proven winner and a Champion with the talent to control not only a race car, but himself.
Remember to follow me on Twitter: @forewasabi. I always have nothing important to say.
"The horizon is out there somewhere, and you just keep chasing it, looking for it, and working for it."
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