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Woody: Kurt Busch May Be In For Painful Lesson

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 12 2011

Kurt Busch found trouble with Jimmie Johnson and the media Saturday at Richmond. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

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.

Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch will start the Chase on a sour note. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

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 lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 12 2011
11 Comments

11 Comments »

  • Marilyn says:

    I think it is Jimmie that’s in Kurt’s head, not the other way around.

  • Richard says:

    I AGREE WITH DICK TONY AND MR CLAUS, TOTAL JERK
    HIS Brother is Following in His older Brothers FootPrints !!

  • Terrell Davis says:

    Well, I don’t care one way or another about Kurt Busch but I have to agree with Woody about some drivers being less than kind to the print media. I also agree that print media reporters generally ask tougher questions. But that doesn’t mean those reporters are being hostile to those they are interviewing…..they simple are doing their jobs. And drivers have every right to refuse to answer those questions, but when they do, they shouldn’t get angry when another reporter asks a similar question. It was a question that probably needed to be addressed. Not always, of course.
    Busch should be happy as heck that anyone wants to ask him anything. He’s not exactly a sizzling personality.
    If Fryer wasn’t such a classy person, she should have smacked the holy crap out of Busch and then everybody would have had something really interesting to write about.
    But, it would have been for naught….the TV cameras weren’t rolling!

  • ONE IS AS BAD AS THE OTHER.

  • old97fan says:

    Larry,

    I used to live in Davidson County and read your work a lot in the Tennessean. Didn’t always agree with you but liked your columns. I’m a Kurt Busch fan from his beginnning in Nascar. I think he made an a## of himself at Richmond after the race and make no bones about it. My suspicion is that something else had already set him off before the reporters got to him and they got to be the dog that got kicked.

    You also pointed out something I hadn’t noticed before and am not sure if it is true in this case but will be watching on the issue of print versus TV. That said, Kurt has received a lot of negative, sometimes untrue reporting in the print media through the years that have shown very little journalistic integrity, or basis in fact. You pile on top of that the multitude of blogs out there who don’t really qualify as journalism but are typically lumped in with print media and you can see how a double standard starts to develop in some drivers eyes. I don’t think Kurt’s response was acceptible to the journalist involved, but I don’t think it was as simple as you painted it either.

  • t herman says:

    You guys are making a big deal out of nothing, Kurt will either do it on the track or he won’t. Either way he’ll still probably get hammered in the press because he was less than kind to some one he may or may not care for and who may have just caught him a bad moment, moments we all have but are fortunate to not have in front of cameras or reporters.

  • mr clause says:

    I wonder how long it would take Kurt to figure out why not a single reporter had a single question for him anyplace. If he was just ignored totally, both the “Captain” and Dodge wouldn’t be long in jerking a real knot in his behind. What could NASCAR do if that happened, not a durn thing. Lets look at this, RC pays $150,000 for a headlock and Kurt the jerk get’s nothing for “trying” to intimidate a reporter. Don’t you just love the consistency? The reporters can send a major message here just by doing nothing. Would be just as effective as a Jimmy Spencer right hand, maybe even more so.

  • Joe says:

    That’s right because Woody is LOCAL!

  • joe says:

    He’d have a lot better shot at getting a sore nose if Larry Woody was still among the traveling media corps.

  • Tony Traugott says:

    Seems to me that Kurt Busch has always been a jerk and will always be a jerk. As for Jimmy Johnson always having the best equipment, in a spec-car series such as NASCAR where there are a lot of big-bucks teams competing, I don’t think Busch’s argument hold a lot of water. You may be right, he may be cracking. Or maybe not. It will be interesting to see what kind of tantrum Busch throws if / when he does blow it.

    • Dick says:

      Kurt (A.H.) Busch is one to make that short-sighted statement in the first place……..were it not for the change to the “Chase” format in ‘04, he’d have finished 4th, Gordon would have won and he’d not be a ‘Champion’ at all!