Woody: Kurt Busch May Be In For Painful Lesson
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
Sounds like Kurt Busch may be due for a booster shot from Jimmy Spencer.
After a run-in with Jimmie Johnson on the track at Richmond last Saturday night, Busch took out his frustrations on a couple of reporters. He had to be “restrained” when NASCAR.com’s Joe Menzer asked a question about his deal with Johnson, and later grabbed a quote sheet from AP reporter Jena Fryer and tore it up.
Both are excellent reporters and both asked perfectly legit questions. There was no excuse for Busch’s antics.
As I read accounts of Busch’s blowup I could imagine an announcement from the PA system: “Will Jimmy Spencer please report to the Media Center …”
For those who have forgotten (including, apparently Kurt Busch), in 2003 Spencer socked Busch in the nose amid a similar tantrum. That attitude adjustment seemed to do wonders for Kurt’s decorum in ensuing years. But apparently it’s worn off.
Understand, I’m not criticizing Busch for his crack about Jimmie Johnson being a “five-time chump” who won his championships only because he had superior equipment. He’s entitled to think and say whatever he wants, and there’s nothing like an old-fashioned drivers’ feud to spice things up.
There likewise was nothing wrong with Busch’s beating and banging with Johnson on the track – it shows passion and emotion and NASCAR needs more of it.
But Kurt should direct his tough-guy act toward his rival racers, and if he’s going to rant at the media, he should at least rant consistently. Don’t suck up to TV, then jump the print people when the camera’s turned off.
After conducting a mild-mannered post-race TV interview, Busch raged at Menzer for asking essentially the same question that the TV guy asked. Witnesses said the confrontation almost became physical.
I’ve seen that fake act before: certain drivers (and some crew chiefs) are Boy Scouts when schmoozing for the camera, then turn into total jerks with the print media.
At least you can say one thing about temper-challenged Tony Stewart: he doesn’t turn it on and off. When Tony is peeved, he’s peeved on TV. He doesn’t smile on-camera then unload on some ink-stained wretch who walks up with a pen and notebook.
I got jumped by Stewart one night at Bristol for asking a question he didn’t like, but, to his credit, he’s also jumped a lot of TV guys while the cameras were rolling. I never minded if a driver got miffed at me, as long as he also got equally miffed on the rare event that a TV interviewer asked a hard question. I admire Tony for that.
I know that nobody cares about a sports writer getting cuffed around now and then. Most reporters shrug it off. Dealing with the “jerk factor” is part of the job.
But what’s significant about Busch’s blowup is that it shows he is feeling the pressure heading into the 10-race Chase for the Championship.
Sometimes drivers race harder when they’re mad. Perhaps Kurt will use the chip on his shoulder as motivation down the stretch. On the other hand, some drivers crack under the pressure and do something dumb that results in a wipeout.
We’ll see how Busch reacts, starting Sunday at Chicagoland. But one thing is likely: if he keeps pitching fits like last Saturday night’s, he’s going to end up with another sore nose.
Maybe he should tape a photo of Jimmy Spencer on his dashboard as a reminder.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments