|Busch spun while leading Sunday|
Running his final race for James Finch’s Phoenix Racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, Busch surged forward from his 29th-place starting spot to take the lead. On lap 99, however, Busch’s Chevrolet unexpectedly sputtered out of fuel as he exited Turn Two. He was collected by runner-up Jamie McMurray and spun trunk-first into the inside wall, doing severe damage to his car. A second, lighter blow damaged the front end of his mount, and left it steaming on the track apron.
As the caution flag flew, Busch asked spotter Steve Barkdoll, “"I am out of fuel and I got wrecked. Why am I out of gas?" Safety workers quickly arrived on the scene and Busch climbed from the car, waving to the fans while taking a mental inventory of the wreckage. All four tires were up, he discovered. And most of the damage – while severe -- was cosmetic in nature. Like Dale Earnhardt, Sr. did after flipping his mount in the 1997 Daytona 500, Busch began thinking, “I can still drive this thing.”
He quickly slid back behind the wheel, dropping the car out of gear and punching the starter button. Surprisingly, the engine roared back to life. Now fully focused on returning to competition, Busch drove away from the scene, leaving a number of befuddled EMTs in his wake and tossing one of their equipment bags from the roof of his car as he drove away.
Almost immediately, Busch’s car began littering the backstretch apron with debris. NASCAR immediately ordered him to stop, but he heard nothing, having removed his helmet in preparation for a mandatory post-crash ambulance ride to the infield Medical Center. Busch eventually made his way back to the garage, only to discover that NASCAR officials had ordered his No. 51 Chevrolet parked for the remainder of the day.
|Cool, calm and collected.|
A swarm of media members quickly descended on his garage stall, ready to chronicle the latest in a series of Busch-related controversies. This time, however, there was no snit. No profanity, no insults, no bleep-filled Sports Center sound bites. Just a cool, calm Kurt Busch, explaining in measured terms how his promising day had gone so horribly awry.
"This is the way my life works,” said Busch. “Today is a perfect example.
“I am leading, I wreck and I run out of gas. I try to get back in the race, and now NASCAR is yelling at me because I don't have my helmet on. I'm trying to get to the garage so the guys can work on (the car), and now I'm in trouble.
“This is my life. I'm not complaining; I put myself in a lot of these situations."
"I guess they were telling me to stop,” he admitted. “That is the competitor (in me). That is the desire I have to stay in the race and to keep going. I got out of the car, I kept going and saw the car would roll and it didn't have flat tires.
"I was hoping to get the car back to the garage to work on it and get back in this race. NASCAR was yelling at me to stop, I didn't have my helmet on and I was in worse trouble. Now I have a storm of media around me and I don't know what to say, or what to do next."
Busch said -- and did -- all the right things Sunday, and his honest, controlled reaction to adversity gives hope to those who believe it’s not too late for him to salvage his NASCAR career. Busch claims to have learned a lot from the trials of the last 12 months.
Sunday, he proved it.
Photos: John Harrelson/Getty Images, Sean Gardner/Getty Images