I guess some people just never learn. Kurt Busch lost his high-profile ride in the No. 22 Dodge at Penske Racing at the end of last season, mostly due to his behavioral problems that ranged from berating his crew via in-race radio communication to an instance late last season in which he didn’t handle himself well during an interview with an ESPN reporter.
As you know, in the end, Busch was relieved of driving duties at Penske and hired on (without a written contract, supposedly) by James Finch for his Phoenix Racing organization to drive the No. 51 Chevrolet.
Finch has a reputation as a take-no-crap kind of owner. But that, obviously, doesn’t have Busch scared. Apparently, he hasn’t really learned from the whole Penske deal, or from getting fired by car owner Jack Roush before that.
Busch seemed to be, at least somewhat, on the straight and narrow until it all just fell apart Saturday night during the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlingtonn (S.C.) Raceay.
After a race that saw Busch and fellow-competitor Ryan Newman make contact on the race track, Busch nearly hit members of Newman’s No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing team on pit road, and Busch and a member of the No. 39 team “go at it” after the race, Busch has once again caught the ire of NASCAR.
Of course, Busch wasn’t the only individual issued some kind of punishment when penalties were handed out for the incident, but he was the only one of the small group with a “serious record.” As a result, NASCAR’s bad boy was fined some $50,000 and placed on probation.
A couple of crew members on the No. 51 and No. 39 teams were on the receiving end of smaller fines and probationary periods, and No. 39 crew chief Tony Gibson was placed on probation because, as crew chief, he’s responsible for the behavior of his team. But their penalties weren’t as glaring as Busch’s. After all, Busch has a reputation for this sort of behavior.
On top of that, radio communication from Busch to his crew from Saturday night has been replayed on NASCAR news programming in the days since — at least what few parts of it was deemed fit for consumption by the general public. Actually, the replay seemed more like a series of censor beeps, interrupted by a stray word here and there.
NASCAR fans have complained fairly recently about their drivers becoming “too vanilla.” At least Busch fans don’t have that complaint. But it seems he has taken his colorfulness at least a little too far, and maybe to the continual detriment of his career. Busch is an excellent driver. I’ll give him that. After all, it hasn’t been all that many years since he claimed a Cup title. But his outbursts are overshadowing, and maybe even hindering, what could be an even more stellar NASCAR career.
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Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR.