Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sadler, Busch At Opposite Ends Of Behavioral Spectrum

Darlington Raceway has always brought out the best and worst in drivers. Last weekend offered a pair of textbook cases, at each end of the spectrum.

Elliott Sadler
Friday night, NASCAR Nationwide Series race leader Elliott Sadler was turned headlong into the wall by a poorly executed Joey Logano bump draft, just a handful of laps from the finish. The crash robbed him of a potential win and left his Richard Childress Racing team 23 points behind defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., in the 2012 championship chase.

Sadler had every reason to explode in anger Friday, unleashing a storm of expletives in Logano’s direction. Instead, he offered a measured response that redefined the boundaries of composure and self-restraint. 

"It's just a shame, man," said Sadler after the crash. "You just don't bump-draft every place you go, especially not at a place like Darlington. I'm out here fighting for my life to be a part of this sport. It's heartbreaking."

Fast-forward to the final laps of Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series “Bojangles Southern 500,” when a cut a tire on his James Finch-owned Chevrolet caused former series champion Kurt Busch to spin out of his spot in the Top-10.  Upset with his turn of bad luck, Busch unleashed a torrent of foul language on his in-car radio while en route to pit road. Once repairs were completed, he “burned out” through Ryan Newman’s adjoining pit box -- an area occupied by members of Newman’s over-the-wall crew and at least one NASCAR official – reportedly forcing them to scramble out of harm’s way.

After the race, Busch hit Newman's Chevrolet from behind on pit road, triggering a shoving match between his team and Newman’s already angry crew. During the skirmish, a NASCAR official either fell or was pushed across the hood of Busch’s car.

"Kurt blew a fuse again," said Newman to SI.com's Dustin Long after the race. "I think the chemical imbalance speaks for itself. Kurt drilled me in pit lane and said he was taking his helmet off and didn't see where he was going. I'm pretty sure there were 42 other guys that are taking their helmets off… for the last 10 years, and that's the first time that's happened to me. Circumstances, I think, are he lied and was so frustrated that he doesn't know how to deal with his anger."

Busch did not comment after the race, and has not done so since. He reportedly plans to address the media Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but whatever explanation he offers will likely be too little, too late. After repeatedly stating that his 2012 season would be “all about having fun,” Busch encouraged fans, media members and fellow competitors to judge him on his actions this season. Many believed it was only a matter of time until the 2004 champion blew his top once again, and it took just three months for Busch to prove them right.

Kurt Busch remains one of the best pure drivers in all of NASCAR. On that count, even his most fervent detractors will defer. Unfortunately, a volcanic, unpredictable temper also comes as part of the package. That temper cost him a pair of championship-caliber rides at Roush Fenway and Penske Racing in recent seasons; relegating him to the underfinanced Phoenix Racing team, where he labors today.

His stated goal for 2012 was to prove that he could get along with his team, his competitors and the media, both on and off the race track.

Saturday night, Busch fell far short of that goal.


  1. Actually I am surprised he lasted as long as he did. Wonder if he is having "fun" yet??

    At some point he has to grow up and realize the person he he is hurting is himself...hopefully that happens before someone else pays a heavy price.

  2. Anonymous12:04 PM

    Typical media, no where does the article mention that Newman's crew started the shoving match, you make it sound like Busch started the fight, it is also written to make you assume Busch is the one responsible for the official falling to the ground. Not saying that Busch is a saint, because he's not. I'm just saying for once he didn't start the trouble, trouble came to him, it would be nice to see the media cut him a little slack or at least report both sides of the story. This is like tuning into fox news and trying to find something positive about the president, or vice-versa on MSNBC.

    1. Where did I write that "Busch started the fight?" For that matter, where did I even use the word "fight?" Read again, and you will see that I wrote the shoviing match was triggered when Busch hit Newman's car on pit road. That is 100% accurate, and i stand by it.

      In conclusion, I will be happy to report both sides of the story, once Kurt decides to step in front of the cameras and answer reporters' questions.

    2. Anonymous1:35 PM

      I'm not saying you said he "started the fight", I'm just saying that is what your article implies. You make it sound like Busch running into the back of Newman's car "triggered a shoving match" when in fact the gas man that started the shoving match was already on his way to Busch's hauler to cause trouble before the bump ever happened. I'm not hating on you, I love your show, you and Angie make the ride home every day tolerable. I just don't feel like the Busch brothers have gotten there fair shake over the past six months.

    3. Anonymous2:31 PM

      Maybe a LOT of the blame falls on Newman's crew chief for allowing his crew to react, and even more on the hot head who went after Busch's crew members. Why isn't he (also) the focus of this article? There are two distinct sides to this story, and what I saw on the TeeVee was Newman's crew heading down with fire in their eyes, and the gas can carrier knocking down the NASCAR official while they were trying to restrain him.

      I see this way differently, it is not all Kurt's fault. Others share the blame for reacting and blowing this out of proportion.

      Doug from NJ

  3. Anonymous12:16 PM

    Elliot is the consummate "Southern Gentleman." This is not the first time he has had an unfortunate finish at the hands of another driver, and yet, no temper tantrums. Sadler is a true "Sportsman."
    Big Brother Busch on the other hand, is the consummate.....(insert your own term here). It is unfortunate, because the man can control a race car but not his own emotions and behavior. I feel bad for Busch. He has the talent to win another championship, however, each successive outburst is just another step towards the end of the plank and a fall into the world of "also ran's."
    There is one other person that people tend to forget that Busch's behavior affects, that would be James Finch. Finch had built a team that is regularly competitive on the Cup circuit, using a shoe string budget. In the sponsor stingy environment of big time racing, this has got to be keeping him awake at night.
    Apparently Busch's release from Penske did not provide the epiphany he needed to overcome his own behavior on the track. With luck, maybe that time will occur before his career is in complete shambles. Hopefully, Little Brother Busch is watching what is happening with his brother and taking notes.

    Rick in Indiana

    1. End it now and put him on adderall and hope he gets a cold.

  4. I realize we live in a pill for everything society. But just maybe Kurt needs to try an anti-depressant med. His tallent is going to waste but at some point NASCAR has to say enough.

  5. Anonymous2:05 PM

    THIS is exactly why, as a long-time fan, seeing the sport where it is how is painful.

    It's such a shame that Sadler can't get a ride in Cup, but Busch still hangs on.

    When I was growing up, you didn't have to win 2 championships in 5 years to keep a ride. As long as you were relatively competitive and good with the fans, you kept your ride --even if you were an older driver. Prime examples: Kyle Petty, Harry Gant, Neil Bonnett. Fan base was more essential than pure talent. And NASCAR drivers didn't relegate fans to "nice to have" and meet and greets as "necessary evils".

    I miss that part of NASCAR. I miss being able to go to a meet and greet with nice drivers who would tell kids to do well in school and behave mom and dad; who would talk to the fans longer than it took to do a pit stop. I wish my kids grew up with the same NASCAR I did.

  6. Busch did start the fight. The world I live in, if you put a man's crew in danger by doing something stupid like doing a burn out through a pit lane. You have an ass beating coming. It's called being held accountable for your actions. Put the #39 gas man and Kurt in a room, and let them "settle" their differences. If Kurt can't learn his lesson from that he is too dumb to live.

    1. Anonymous6:15 PM

      Right. You like the crashin and banging too, don't cha? Real smart to encourage "ass beating" when that solves nothing but some sick need to fix everything with your fists. I wonder if the sponsor's would like to see Full Metal Wrestling on race night while the rest of America slinks off to find something else to watch. When the 'ass beating' mentality leaves, the sport will improve.

  7. David Stolberg5:58 PM

    The wonderful thing about being a Nascar Fan is that we have choices, we can choose our favorite and least favorite tracks, we can like or dislike short tracks or superspeedways, we can hate tandem racing and love pack racing, we can choose a favorite manufacturer, race team or driver, we can even choose between personalities, temperment and driving styles with drivers....., with all these varied choices I choose to put my energy, interest and respect behind Elliott sadler and the many many drivers in Nascar that are like him. While I recognize and admire Kurt Busch's talent behind the wheel of a race car he has not exhibited the behaivor or character that I want to be associated with, so I choose not to spend any energy, interest and certainly respect on him. I'd rather save that for Elliott and the numerous other drivers that have earned it....., my choice. Kurt Busch is like the article and pictures in the paper about a train wreck, It will hold my attention briefly and then its time to move on and not give it any thought until the next derailment.

  8. Elliot is the man. Elliot is A man. Kurt said what he had to say, most likely knowing all along he can't hold his water. But if left unsaid, you are open for constant attack. If said, maybe the attacks don't happen until you open the door. Well, the door is wide open. There are 2 drivers that I've seen in recent history that have made my jaw fly open uncontrollably with their sheer ability, raw talent, and handles. They also have made my jaw fly open for reasons which aren't as flattering. They also happen to be related. They each share a skill that not many have. They're skills can drive a P.O.S. to the checkers in one race, and a championship car into the ground the next. The Busch Brothers are a sad window into sports psychology, but a window that is extremely clean. Spotless to the point where its easy to see, they are also their own worst enemies. Kyle Busch may never win a championship, and people may never care because we can see why. King Swag may never win one, but the NASCAR world will always look at him as a champ. I'm jealous of everyone that gets a chance to race for a living. I'd trade places with any of them in a second. Living the dream, doesn't mean happiness. In the case of the Bros Busch, It is obviously not the case. In their case, I'll stick to fixing copiers...

  9. Dave,

    As a longtime Elliott Sadler fan, I wish I had the same ability restrain my emotions as Elliott does. I couldn't sleep for 2 days after the his heart breaking loss in the Daytona 500 to the 17 car. And when Jason Leffler punted him ending any hopes of a championship last year.... well, my dog hide from me for days.

    Racing is racing... I know that, but here's the thing about Logano wrecking him at Darlington: Joey had very little to gain, and Sadler had everything to lose. Logano is a cup driver. One would think a cup driver would give the NNWS driver who was racing for a championship and professional career a little more respect on the track.

    I'll go even further. The racing in the Nascar Nationwide Series is good stuff and that's why I watch it. In my opinion, the racing is much more suited to TV viewing than the cup races and fun to watch. I watch it to see not only my guy in the #2, but to see drivers like 19 yr old Johanna Long on her way to becoming the top female driver in NASCAR, and guys like Ryan Truex make a run like he did at Richmond last fall. If I want to watch the cup drivers like Joey, Harv, Denny, etc., I'll tune into the Cup race.

    OPINION of @David20180: Cup drivers shouldn't even be racing in the Nationwide series.

  10. Jenifer6:17 PM

    First of all, we watch “extreme” sports because we like to see general mayhem. It’s exciting. And before I get accused of being one of “those people”, I’m actually a long time fan of the sport, going on 13 years. Wrecks are exciting, but I’d rather see my driver come through with his car and his body intact to race again next week with little more than a few donuts on the side, maybe a dinged in fender. But, I might point out that my driver is Tony Stewart, so a little bit of attitude equals a lot of fun in my book! These guys are hot, tired and mad after a race something is bound to happen. Busch had no right to put Newman's crew and the NASCAR official in danger. I saw the clip of him burning out through the pits, he was extremely close to the 39 crew and the NASCAR official. The official actually had to jump out of the way. The crew had a right to be mad, steaming mad. Should cooler heads prevail? Yes. The 51 and the 39 knew something was happening after the race. Busch's crew knew they were coming for him, his CC told him on the radio before the race was over. The 51 CC should have directed Busch stay in the car or some other directive. The 39 CC should have watched his guys more closely. Each team had their hand in the cookie jar in making this situation one hot mess! That was evident BEFORE Busch opened his mouth a week later and made another ass out of himself. Busch needs to sit out a season. I'd love to see Sadler and Kurt swap rides for 2013. Kurt is by far the better driver, but he needs a reality check. This isn’t the first time he’s had the same issue, time after time after time. How many top tier teams have fired him? In how many years? He disrespects his boss, his crew, OTHER crew members, NASCAR, the fans... need I go on? As far as his tirades, Ricky Craven hit the nail on the head when he said "Kurt has the option on whether to push that button (to queue the mic) or not."