Is Busch a Risk to Safety of Others?

Kurt Busch in Daytona January 2012
Photo – Jerry Markland/Getty Images

The question of  how long Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch could go without an anger management issue in the NASCAR 2012 season, was given an answer this past weekend when Busch created some havoc during the race and was involved in more afterward at Darlington.

Here’s how it went down on Saturday night.

Busch came in for the pit stop after a flat tire caused  him to crash with just six laps remaining in the race.  When Busch crashed, he collected Newman rendering both drivers with a less than desirable finish for the night.

But the Phoenix Racing #51 driver, Kurt Busch lost his temper and began yelling on his team radio. Because of the damage caused to both cars, Newman was also in his pit box directly in front of Busch, but left just prior to Busch leaving his box. When the #51 team finished their work, Busch proceeded through Newman’s team pit box with an angry and reckless burnout, leaving a plume of smoke and Newman’s’ crew members and NASCAR officials quickly scattering to avoid injury.  The burnout was not only startling to those in the vicinity of the incident but to fans as well, as it was clear that Busch’s antics were his expression of frustration over his bad night but at the expense of the safety and well-being of those in Newman’s pit box.

Angry over the incident, Newman’s gas man Andy Rueger went to Busch’s hauler to await Busch’s arrival after the race with intentions to confront Busch.  Busch’s team, knew members of the Newman team were upset about the incident and with Busch continuing to spew obscenities over the team radio during the last two laps of the race, his crew chief Nick Harrison instructed Busch to stop and leave  the car at the entrance of pit road in hopes of avoiding further confrontation between the teams and allow Busch an early exit from the track.

Instead, when Busch exited his car, members of Newman’s team had gathered and words were exchanged between the crewmen and Busch, with a NASCAR official losing his footing in the mêlée and falling on the hood of the #51 car, making a bad night worse.

Just before exiting his car, Kurt Busch says he was removing his helmet when his car hit Newman’s on pit road. In light of the Busch’s earlier actions, Newman questions, Busch’s explanation for the hit.

NASCAR responded to the incident Tuesday afternoon with fines and probation for both teams and Kurt Busch.

NASCAR fined Kurt Busch $50,000 and placed him on probation until July 25 for his actions at Darlington Raceway that were in violation of  NASCAR’s Rule Book, Sections 12-1 – actions detrimental to stock car racing; reckless driving on pit road during the race; involved in an altercation with another competitor after the completion of the race.

Additionally, Craig Strickler, a crew member for the #51 team, is fined $5,000 and placed on probation until Dec. 31 also for violating Section 12-1 – actions detrimental to stock car racing; interfering with a member of the broadcast media.
Tony Gibson, crew chief for the #39 team, is placed on NASCAR probation until June 27 for also violating Section 12-1 as well as Sections 12-4G and 9-4A – Crew chief assumes responsibility for the actions of his team members.

Andrew Rueger, a crew member of the #39 team, is fined $5,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until June 27 for violating – yes, you guessed it – Section 12-1 – actions detrimental to stock car racing; failure to comply with a directive from a NASCAR official.

Kurt made it nearly a third of the way into the season before having a Busch style meltdown. And from his comments since, it seems he’s still in denial about his anger management issues by down-playing his actions in Darlington.

While it’s understandable that Busch would want to down-play the incident, until he seriously addresses his problems in handling his temper in these situations, the well-being and safety of others at the track are still at risk.

It appears after ten years of Busch’s sporadic outburst of anger on and off the track, NASCAR is still willing to give him another chance at redemption.  Questions still remain, how long before the next Busch incident?  And, is Busch capable of seriously addressing his anger management issues?

Best case scenario, there won’t be another Kurt Busch incident.  But if there is, it’s with a hope and a prayer, that no one will be seriously hurt the next time Mt. Busch erupts!

Penske’s Broad Mark on Racing History

By Michelle Lesener

For Roger Penske, winning is a way of life. He and his Penske Racing organization have earned wins in a variety of series, ranging from Formula One to American LeMans, IndyCar and NASCAR, among others. 
The Penske mark in racing history began with Roger driving cars for a living from 1958 to 1965. He raced in a number of series including two Formula One events and won a race in a NASCAR subdivision – the Pacific Coast Late Model Divison – at Riverside in 1963. He was even offered a rookie test at Indianapolis for the 500 but Penske turned it down. 
After his retirement from driving, Penske formed a team of his own in 1966 by fielding cars in endurance races with Mark Donohue as his driver. He made the jump to IndyCar two years later, again fielding cars with Donohue in the drivers’ seat. 
In 1972, with humble beginnings in NASCAR, and under the banner of Penske Racing South, the team fielded cars for Donohue and then Bobby Allison until 1977. 
Surprisingly, Penske Racing disappeared from the NASCAR scene for several years, returning briefly for a two-race stint with Rusty Wallace. Penske then returned for good in 1991, with Rusty Wallace and long-time Penske associate, Don Miller as a co-owner of the team. 
Also, winning 15 Indianapolis 500s with IndyCar, Penske Racing has seen great success with ten different drivers including, Mark Donohue, Al Unser, Al Unser Jr., Rick Mears, Sam Hornish Jr, and Helio Castroneves. They also have one championship in IndyCar, with Sam Hornish Jr in 2006. 
The Penske organization still continues with multiple wins in NASCAR’s Nationwide and Sprint Cup series’. Their only title in these premier series’ came in 2010 when Brad Keselowski won a hotly-contested Nationwide Championship over Carl Edwards. 
Will Power current points leader in IndyCar for Penske
Currently, Penske fields three drivers in the IndyCar series with Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Will Power. Power has three wins this season and is currently the points-leader for the series. Helio has one win so far this season and is second in point-standings, 55 points behind Will. Ryan Briscoe sits in 7th place and 97 points behind his first-place teammate. All three top-ten teams proudly represent Penske Racing within IndyCar.
In NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger drive the No. 2 and No. 22, respectively. Brad Keselowski pulls double duty, running in the Nationwide series along with teammate Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish is Penske’s only driver contending for a championship in Nationwide, as Brad has elected to race for a Sprint Cup championship. 

Brad Keselowski has two Sprint Cup wins so far and is currently 12th in the point standings, putting him in perfect position for one of two wild card spots for the Chase. After 11 races, Keselowski is 83 points behind points-leader Greg Biffle. 

AJ Allmendinger is currently 22nd in Sprint Cup point-standings, 84 points from 10th place Carl Edwards and 158 points behind points-leader Greg Biffle. Allmendinger has been hit with unforeseen, bad luck this season and is looking to turn it around as quickly as possible. 

Having his best NASCAR season so far, Sam Hornish Jr. is currently 4th in the Nationwide series standings, 59 points away from points leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 
Roger Penske’s storied history has led his organization to what may be one of his most successful seasons. His IndyCar team has an impressive record of winning the prestigious Indianapolis 500. Will fans see a Penske team return to victory lane for this year’s event? 

With three drivers currently in the series’ top-ten, another Penske championship is also on the line and many wonder, which of these three drivers will prevail. It will be fun and interesting to watch as they compete for a second and coveted Penske championship.

This season also offers a chance for Penske Racing to achieve a rare feat by winning two celebrated races at Indianapolis’ legendary track – IndyCar’s Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400, Sprint Cup race – will Penske’s teams pull it off this year? 

With teams in both Nationwide and Sprint Cup, Penske Racing has another opportunity to contend for championships in both of NASCAR’s premier series. Within the top-five, Hornish has a chance to earn a second Nationwide championship for Penske, also earning his second championship with the organization. 

And with two wins in the first 11 races of the season, Keselowski is knocking of the door to contend for Penske’s first Sprint Cup championship. These titles could become a reality – but will it happen? Again, it will be fun to see how the Penske season unfolds. 

With all these questions lingering in the 2012 season, one point is without question – Roger Penske and his organization continue to broaden their mark on racing history.