Kurt Busch tried some drag racing on a NASCAR Sprint Cup off-weekend - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
It runs in the family.
Whether on the track or off it, NASCAR's Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle manage to elicit problems, either through their actions or their words.
Kyle's escapades in the Camping World Truck Series, wrecking championship contender Ron Hornaday Jr under caution, netted the younger Busch brother a time-out for that particular weekend's remaining two NASCAR races and the loss of sponsor Mars Candy for the final two races of the season. In seventh place when the incident occurred, Kyle Busch finished the season in 12th and was a nonentity at either Phoenix or Homestead-Miami Speedway.
His older brother Kurt suffered transmission failure on his Dodge early in the Ford 400 on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval last weekend. He drove directly to the garage and unleashed his anger on his crew and on interviewer Dr Jerry Punch. The profanity-laced tirade never made the broadcast as Dr Punch had enough and walked away without getting Busch's on-air comments, but everything he said was recorded by a fan with a cell phone and is now viral on YouTube.
Already in the planning stages, on Monday Kurt Busch's crew chief Steve Addington left the driver and the Penske Racing team. He is the second crew chief to bail on Busch in the past three NASCAR Sprint Cup seasons.
Two days after the race, Penske Racing issued a formal apology: "Penske Racing extends its apologies to Dr Jerry Punch, our media partners and our sponsors and fans for Kurt's inappropriate actions. These actions do not represent Penske Racing and are inconsistent with the company's standards for behavior, respect for others and professionalism. This matter is being reviewed internally with no further comment at this time."
Several hours after the team made their statement, Busch finally owned up to his poor behavior and issued one of his own to Associated Press. The question remains, is this enough to help him keep his job? Busch's attitude of entitlement - just like his brother's - is getting a bit long in the tooth and the following comments certainly look to have been penned by a PR operative:
"Unfortunately our result in the season-ending race at Homestead on Sunday was not what we had hoped for as a team. In my frustration with the loss of my transmission early in the race, I let me emotions get the better of me. I regret having done this and apologize to the sponsors of Penske Racing, to NASCAR, its fans, to the media and in particular," Dr Jerry Punch."
While the Sprint Cup Champions Week takes place in the Busch brothers' hometown of Las Vegas, both Kurt (11th in the Chase standings) and Kyle will be on the periphery as only the top 10 drivers take the stage in the celebration, which will culminate with Tony Stewart's crowning as 2011 champion, ending (and book-ending) Jimmie Johnson's five-year reign.
Kyle Busch's on-track emotional meltdown and Kurt's on the garage area are nothing new for either one of these drivers. They've both had problems keeping their emotions in check since joining the NASCAR national circuits. While those of us that love motor racing would always prefer to have our drivers with some signs of personality - see Tony Stewart's early rages while employed by Joe Gibbs Racing - we'd always prefer that drivers show some ability to hold their feelings in check and signs of maturity (as Stewart has shown since), even in the heat of competition.
Hearing Busch blame everyone but himself for transmission failure, inferring that it was just fine to him that Stewart's car was damaged by his debris and being abusive to a reporter who never shows anything but class, Kurt Busch showed just how little class he has.
One can only hope that Joe and JD Gibbs, together with Roger Penske and team president Tim Cindric, realize this type of behavior is not going to change. No matter what the team owners have done to try and reel in their drivers' impatience and self-importance, it just hasn't worked.
Time for the Busch brothers to realize the world doesn't revolve on their respective axis. Talent is great, but talent with grace trumps all.
© 2011 Anne Proffit