Everyone has to grow up some time.
Apparently that time has not come for the Busch Brothers yet.
The most criticized and disliked brothers in NASCAR have always had their attitudes overshadow their skill for as long as they have been driving in NASCAR full time. Almost every time there is a conflict in NASCAR, either the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, or Truck series, it usually involves either Kurt or Kyle.
Both of the brothers have has a great amount of success in all levels of NASCAR. Kurt Busch won the 2004 then Nextel Cup Championship driving the #97 car for powerhouse Roush Racing. He is one of only 23 drivers to win in all 3 levels of NASCAR competition.
Kyle Busch has had just as much success as his brother. He currently holds the record for most race wins in a season across the top three NASCAR series with 24 in 2010. On August 21, 2010, Busch became the first driver to win in all three of NASCAR’s top three touring series in the same weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. He also holds the record for most wins in the NASCAR Nationwide series with 51. Since his first year in NASCAR in 2001, Kyle has earned over 100 total wins and now owns his own race team that runs in the Truck series.
Before the 2011 season Kurt and Kyle seemed like they had at least started to grow up and mature. They seemed more calm and took a professional approach to the upcoming season. But many people around the sports were obviously skeptic of the “new” brothers. Their skepticism was right as shown over the season.
After the 2011 Southern 500, driver Kevin Harvick parked his car in front of Kyle’s car and went over to Kyle’s car to “talk” to him about the two of them racing each other a little too hard sometimes during the race. When Harvick approached Kyle’s car, Kyle floored his car pushing Harvick’s car down pit road unmanned until it eventually ramed into the pit lane wall. Because of this Kyle was fined $25,000 and put on probation for 4 races.
Later on this season once again Kyle got into trouble. At the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 it is believed that Kyle bumped the #22 car driven by Joey Coulter for Richard Childress after the race in retaliation to the way Coulter raced him. In the garage after the race Childress, age 66, came up to Busch, put him in a head lock and started punching him. Busch, who was still on probation at the time of the incident, did not violate his probation. Childress however, was fined $150,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until the end of the year.
On November 4th, 2011 at Texas Motor Speedway during a Truck series race, Kyle Busch driving for his own race team entered the race against other drivers racing for that series title and because Kyle is racing for the Sprint Cup Championship he could not race fot the Truck series championship. After a racing incident during the race with series regular and championship contender Ron Hornaday, Busch deliberately turned him into the outside wall under caution, ending Hornaday’s title hopes. This caused a wave of backlash towards the disgruntle driver. NASCAR black-flagged Busch and parked Kyle for the rest of the race. The next morning, NASCAR announced that Busch would remain parked for the remainder of the weekend, including the Nationwide series race and more importantly the Sprint Cup race for that weekend, all but ending his hopes for the Sprint Cup Championship. In addition to sitting for the weekend, Kyle’s main sponsor, M&M’s, removed their sponsorship from the #18 car for the rest of the season. It was the first time since the Truck Series was created in 1995 that a driver was suspended from all three series in NASCAR.
Not to be overshadowed by his brothers actions this year, Kurt Busch took what Kyle did a step farther.
At the season ending race at Homestead, Busch finished 47 laps behind the leaders, after spending time in the garage for mechanical issues for the majority of the race. While turning into the garage, Busch made an obscene hand gesture towards someone that was caught on the in car camera and shown on the live national broadcast. To make the day worse for Kurt, while his car was being repaired in the garage, Kurt began verbally abusing ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch who was waiting to do an interview with Kurt. Unknown to Kurt the off camera conversation was captured by a fan and placed onto youtube where the video spread like wildfire. Kurt’s race team, Penske Racing, issued a apology for Kurt’s inappropriate actions. After the season Kurt Busch and Penske Racing agreed to a mutual split, however many in the sport believe that he was fired rather than a mutual split.
Kurt Busch will run for Phoenix Racing for the 2012 season. If I had to compare NASCAR race teams to MLB teams, If Hendrick Motorsports is like the New York Yankees, Phoenix Racing is like Pittsburgh Pirates.
When Kurt was let go from Penske Racing and when NASCAR sat Kyle for intentionally wrecking a driver, it showed that no matter who you are if you make stupid decisions you will be punished. The incidents that stretched throughout the entire season showed that the Busch Brothers did not change as much as they had said at the beginning of the season. The lack of respect that they showed through the season that they are still as immature as they have always been and NASCAR and the people around are losing their patience.
Just like in every business if your behavior is unacceptable people will not want to work with you no matter how talented you may be. Kurt Busch losing his job at Penske made a statement that others in NASCAR are following. When Kurt was looking for a car to drive for the upcoming year he tried to agree to a deal to run for Richard Petty. However when Petty was asked why he did not sign Kurt during the offseason, he was approached by his sponsors for his race teams and they told Petty that they did not want Kurt to drive a car that they were sponsoring. The same type of sponsor reaction was made by Kyle’s primary sponsor M&M’s after the Texas incident. What this says is that a drivers personal image and character has a huge effect on their success especially in a sponsor driven sport like NASCAR where drivers wear something with a company logo on it almost all the time.
At some point both Kurt and Kyle Busch need to learn to control their temper when they are driving and realize that every action that they make in the heat of the moment will have a reaction that often times will be bad for them. Hopefully having Kurt lose his job because of his off the track actions will wake both of the talented drivers up and show them that they need to change their ways. It is ok to be agressive on the racetrack but you need to have a level head on and off the track.
If these two dont change their acts and grow up soon no one will put up with all of their baggage and they will be known as the drivers that nobody could deal with.
by Andrew Isaac