June 11, 2012
By Matthew Pizzolato
At the end of last season, Kurt Busch talked himself out of a job with one of the premier race teams in the garage, Penske Racing. It was called a mutual decision to part ways, but who willingly walks away from a job like that?
He signed with Phoenix Racing for this season but hasn't been able to stay out of trouble. Busch was fined $50,000 and placed on probation by NASCAR for reckless driving on pit road and for being involved in a post race altercation with several members of Ryan Newman's pit crew.
That probation was supposed to have ended on July 25, but Busch found a way to have it extended until the end of the year by verbally abusing a reporter after last weekend's Nationwide race. Busch had contact with another driver on the track and the reporter, Bob Pockrass, asked him if his probation affected the way he raced.
"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," Busch said. His remark was caught on video.
As a result, Busch was suspended for this weekend at Pocono and placed on probation until the end of the year. It seems Busch has developed quite a talent for verbally assaulting members of the media.
Pocono was the first Sprint Cup race that Busch has missed since 2005 when he was let go from Rousch Fenway Racing with two races remaining in the season after Busch was accused of reckless driving.
His behavior as well as his talent for verbally abusing reporters has cost him more than one job and has him on the verge of losing his current ride with Phoenix Racing. Team owner, James Finch, said Busch's status with his team will be on a race by race basis.
"Here's the deal: Quit wrecking the cars, get a good finish, be nice to people. That's not real hard to do," Finch was quoted as saying on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday. "It's affecting me. If I can't get a sponsor, I can't keep running without a sponsor. That's a slow death. I don't want to do that."
"Hopefully if we can get Kurt's mind right, we can win some races," Finch said. "If we can't get his mind right so we can race into the future, then I'll go do something else. It's just that simple. I'm doing my part."
Even Tony Stewart, who has been no stranger to controversy over the years, admitted that a potential owner would have to take Busch's behavior into consideration.
"You definitely have to look at that, for sure because you know half of the battle is getting a good partner and sponsor," Stewart was quoted as saying during a press conference at Pocono. "And if the sponsors are leery, then it puts you in a bad spot as an owner unless you have unlimited funding and can just put in there whoever you want, it’s definitely a huge concern."
Busch's situation in NASCAR is similar to Terrell Owens of the NFL. Owens developed a reputation for bad behavior and not getting along with his teammates. He bounced around from team to team because owners were willing to gamble that his talent level would help them win games. Owens eventually found that no NFL team would take a chance on him. He was recently released by the Dallas Wranglers, an indoor football team, and is seeking a job with an NFL team.
Owens, like Busch, is incredibly talented at what he does. Yet, is Busch headed down the same path as Owens?
Kurt Busch's talent level will assure him of a ride for the next couple of years, because the lower tier teams will be willing to gamble on him winning a few races for them. But what major team in NASCAR will be willing to put up with his antics?
This season was supposed to be a chance for Busch to prove that he could get his act together so that he could find a spot with an upper-tier team in NASCAR for next year. However, he's done nothing but give owners reasons not to hire him. At this rate, how many more chances is he going to get before he finds himself unemployed?
If you would like to learn more about Matthew, please check out his web site at matthew-pizzolato.com.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.