Busch's road-rage action bush league


Sometimes we snap.

Something ignites a fuse.

Road rage happens every day. Most of the time it festers until a hand gesture is flashed or words unfit for print are yelled but can't be heard through a windshield or side window.

It's like that in racing, too. In the heat of battle, one driver believes another didn't give him enough room on the track or is unhappy about what caused tires to rub or fenders to scrape.

Rarely does the release of anger put drivers in peril. Words get thrown around, but fists usually don't.

But Monday in the Nextel Cup race in Dover, Del., Las Vegas' Kurt Busch crossed the line when he nearly hit one of Tony Stewart's crewmen. Busch knew a split second afterward that he shouldn't have pulled within a whisker of Stewart's car on pit road to show displeasure with how he felt after Stewart crashed him out of the race with 129 laps to go and both running in the top 10.

Busch and Stewart made contact that sent them into the guardwall, causing damage to both cars. That's when Busch ventured into racing's forbidden zone.

Stewart was in his pit stall, and, as a crewman ran around the right front side of his car to check damage, Busch drove up to Stewart's car, forcing the crewman to jump onto his driver's fender to avoid getting run over.

NASCAR immediately ended Busch's day with a black flag, relegating him to 42nd place.

Busch and Stewart blamed each other, but Busch's action on pit road is going to cost him dearly.

"I wanted to make a point, but when you make a point like that, it always ends up making it worse," Busch told reporters several minutes after the incident. "It was my fault for doing that. The issue was out on the racetrack. It was not on pit road."

Busch should pay a big price for his knee-jerk reaction. He probably expects the worst.

Veteran driver Jeff Burton said Wednesday in a telephone interview that Busch's actions were "very serious."

"It has nothing do with Kurt Busch," Burton said. "It's about conducting ourselves in a proper fashion."

NASCAR likely already would have announced Busch's punishment if not for the death Monday of Bill France Jr., the man who orchestrated NASCAR's rise to prominence. His funeral was Thursday.

When Busch's penalty comes, possibly today, it could be the biggest of the year.

I doubt Busch saw the crewman, but that compounds his irrational move.

Added Burton: "We can't come down pit road and put those (crew) guys in that kind of jeopardy. They don't have roll cages and seat belts."

NASCAR should make Busch miss at least one race.

The precedent was set in 1998 when Jeff Purvis rammed the back of another driver's car on pit road during a NASCAR Busch Series race. Purvis' race day was ended, and he was suspended for four races.

Each race Busch might be forced to miss would cost him between 34 and 195 points based on a last-place finish of 43rd and a victory with bonus points for leading the most laps.

Also, a source in the Nextel Cup garages said NASCAR is rumored to have found violations on Busch's No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge that could cost the team $100,000 and the loss of 100 points for both driver and team owner.

If both scenarios happen, the blow could be disastrous to Busch's chances of making the Chase for the Cup, which will be determined after the next 13 races. Busch fell two spots to 11th in the standings after Dover. The top 12 get to join the 10-race Chase.

This season has been frustrating for Busch. Though he ranks highest in the standings among Dodge drivers, he has posted only two top-five finishes. His average finish is 19.2, nearly two spots worse than his career average.

He also had a run-in with brother Kyle in the nonpoints Nextel All-Star Challenge on May 20 that cost each a chance at a million-dollar payday. Kurt maintained his composure immediately after the crash, in which blame could be put on either Busch, and showed his sense of humor in a television interview afterward.

This is the first major flare-up for Kurt since joining Penske for the 2006 season. However, he snapped on Monday.

Old-timers say let the drivers settle their differences behind their haulers. That isn't the answer.

Summer isn't even here, and tempers already are heating up.

Expect a major statement from NASCAR about pit-road behavior while behind the wheel of a 3,400-pound race car. And expect Kurt Busch to be put in the deep freeze.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com.

 

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