Kurt, Dude, What The Heck Are You Thinking?
Perhaps the craziest thing about the latest incident involving Kurt Busch is this: It was a great question that the reporter asked. It was an essential question and had Busch answered it, he would be getting ready to head to Pocono today and NASCAR fans would know a lot more about an important subject.
The incident occurred after the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway last Saturday. Busch, driving a car owned by his brother’s Kyle Busch Motorsports, was involved in an extremely minor on-track skirmish with Turner Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier.
After the race, the two drivers took their feelings to pit road and exchanged words. Busch and Allgaier then went their own ways.
A couple minutes later, Busch was confronted by reporters as he made his way back to the safety of his hauler or motorhome.
Veteran journalist Bob Pockrass asked him if the fact that he was put on probation for what NASCAR deemed reckless driving on pit road and, a post-race shoving match involving his crew and that of driver Ryan Newman after the Sprint Cup event at Darlington last month, affected the rather restrained way he drove against Allgaier.
Again, great question. It seeks competitor insight into several important, topical NASCAR issues. Issues
including the effect of penalties on racing, Busch’s always-in-question state of mind, the concept of “Have at it, boys”, the search for keeping things safe but exciting, exactly what the heck probation means in NASCAR.
Make no mistake, there are a lot of really lame questions being asked in garages and media center these days – more than ever as newspapers turn to amateurs, as local television continues to struggle with doing anything professionally and as social media bloggers are granted access.
Yes, a good many – OK, lots – of those lame questions have come from my mouth.
But that was not a lame question and Pockrass is no amateur. He is the most professional, most dedicated journalist in the sport right now. He is on top of every subject – from the technical aspects of the most technical sport in the world, to the business side of the most business-oriented sport in the world. Wish he worked for me.
For asking a great question, he was treated, basically, to what is known in the legal profession as assault; Busch said that had he not been on probation, he would have beat the s–t out of Pockrass.
Should Busch have been suspended for that? Had he not been on probation, I think not. All journalists who have spent time around athletes – who by nature are temperamental and edgy – have experienced some kind of abuse; verbal and, yes, physical. (I remember the time I got hit in the face with a rather forcefully thrown wet towel in an NBA locker room.)
Kinda goes with the job. My guess is Pockrass feels the same way.
Then there is the sidebar issue that Busch should not have been on probation in the first place. Not if NASCAR means what it says about penalties not being the result of driver history. What Busch did in Darlington did not warrant anything but a stern look.
I’ve spent a bit of time around Busch. The moods of those times ranged from very pleasant to extremely awkward. I know that I have contributed to the awkward moods and that Busch contributed to the pleasant ones.
And I know that Busch is not the first driver to curse and bully reporters. It wasn’t just fellow competitors who were intimidated by the driver of the No. 3 black car back in the day.
But this time, Busch blew it.
First, for the reason for the bullying.
Second, for the timing of it. Dude, you lost one of the best rides in all of motorsports for doing exactly the same thing to a different reporter last season. This time, you appeared to show malice and forethought by acknowledging you were aware of your probationary status.
One of the traits which makes race-car drivers great is their ability to make absolutely correct decisions on the spot – to think split seconds into the future and then react in real time. With Busch, that trait has been left on the track when he heads off the track.
And now, you have been suspended for a weekend. And, worse, you’re very career is on the line as your current team owner, James Finch, reportedly told media members this week that he can’t afford to be crushed by a loose canon rolling around on his decks.
Too bad, too, because you’re a hell of wheelman and it has been a serious hoot watching you overachieve in Finch’s cars.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments