Kyle Busch fan altercation at NASCAR race could have been worse

Updated August 23, 2018 - 7:42 pm

Kyle Busch was trying to be a good sport when he ventured out among fans to sign autographs after what had been a tough night for him at Saturday’s NASCAR race at Bristol, Tennessee.

Most seemed delighted to see him. One confronted the polarizing points leader from Las Vegas and maliciously shoved him.

One of them racin’ deals? Perhaps. But what if the idiot fan had been brandishing a weapon?

This could have been Monica Seles all over again.

Seles was ranked No. 1 in the world and on her way to becoming one of the tennis greats in 1993 when she was stabbed at courtside by an obsessed fan. She won the 1995 Australian Open after launching a comeback but would not appear in another Grand Slam final.

Many tennis people blamed the attack.

Frankly, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often in sports, given how often it occurs outside the lines.

One of NASCAR’s selling points is the accessibility of its competitors. Will this incident change the way Busch and other drivers interact with the public?

Hard to say. But it sure gives them one more reason not to.

Another big one

Team owner Sam Schmidt of Henderson was brutally reminded of auto racing’s inherent danger when his promising driver Robert Wickens suffered serious injuries during a multicar crash at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania.

Wickens, who finished third in this year’s Indianapolis 500, had surgery Monday in which stabilizing rods and screws were placed in his spine. He is expected to undergo additional surgery to treat fractures in his lower body and forearm.

Dan Wheldon, a two-time Indy 500 winner, was killed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2011 while driving for Schmidt.

James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt’s lead driver, suffered life-threatening injuries during practice for the 2015 Indy 500. Mikhail Aleshin was hospitalized with a burst aorta in a massive crash at Fontana, California, in 2014.

Schmidt was a victim of a life-altering crash himself, having suffered a spinal cord injury during an IndyCar testing crash in 2001 that rendered him a quadriplegic. “I’m sick of our team having to be the most resilient team,” he told Motorsport.com.

Playoff-bound

Las Vegas’ Noah Gragson will be seeded third in the seven-race NASCAR Truck Series playoffs that start Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, known as Mosport before naming rights became a thing in NASCAR, too.

Gragson, who turned 20 in July, is one of five drivers who punched a playoff ticket with a race win. Driving a Toyota for fellow Las Vegan Kyle Busch, he did a victory lap at Kansas in May after trucking to his second career victory.

Bullring reopens

The idea behind shutting down racing for almost two months during the dog days of summer is that it would be cooler when The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway reopened with “Back to School Night.”

It’s supposed to be 103 degrees Saturday.

The evening will include giveaways, appearances by local educational leaders and a school-themed opening ceremony. And a racing program that can be used as a fan. Gates open at 5 p.m. with auto racing at 7.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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