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!

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