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Menzer: Busch's latest outburst could cost ride in Cup

June 11, 2012, Joe Menzer,

Kurt Busch's latest outburst may have cost him Cup ride now and in future

You knew it was a tough Sprint Cup weekend for Kurt Busch when his potential future went from bad to worse without him even being granted the privilege to climb into a race car.

And it is a high-paying privilege, something Busch needs to be reminded of -- again. The latest and possibly harshest-worded reminder likely will come as soon as Tuesday when he meets with car owner James Finch.

Busch league

Kurt Busch has made a name for himself more for his actions away from the wheel than behind it. Here is a look at a couple of his greatest hits from this season.

Meanwhile, there was action on the race track at Pocono Raceway. Not for Busch, though, who sat out because of his NASCAR-mandated suspension for yet another unwarranted verbal threat of a reporter who dared to ask yet another legitimate post-race question of Busch a week earlier in Dover.

Possibly the only response to top Busch's in the stupidity department was Tony Stewart's Neanderthal defense of Busch's comments a few days later. Thank goodness for the sanity of drivers such as Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton, who saw through this nonsense and condemned Busch's latest in a string of utterly childlike and ridiculous actions for what they were.

How, then, did it go from bad to worse for Busch at an event he wasn't even eligible to participate in?

Well, with a meeting looming with Mr. Finch, Joey Logano went out and won Sunday's Pocono 400 in the No. 20 Toyota fielded by Joe Gibbs Racing.

Finch, who holds the fate of the No. 51 ride Busch thought he had for the remainder of this season, said during a Sirius Radio interview last week that he wasn't necessarily planning to remove Busch. Although he called the coming chat a "come-to-Jesus meeting." He also said, "It's going to be race by race with us. It's not going to be probation."

What might have been

Just a couple weeks earlier, when folks were still talking about Busch nearly running over unsuspecting pit-crew members while executing an anger-fueled burnout in Ryan Newman's pit stall at Darlington, team owner Joe Gibbs said something interesting. He admitted that, if JGR were to add a fourth team in the future, Kurt Busch would be a driver considered to fill that slot.

Sure, Kurt has some problems -- but he also has talent, Gibbs said. The words echoed those that other power brokers in the sport have uttered about the elder of NASCAR's driving Busch brothers for nearly a decade now.

That same day, Gibbs also spoke effusively in defense of the embattled Logano. Gibbs emphatically stated that JGR still believed in Logano, who had not won a Cup race since registering a rain-shortened victory at New Hampshire in June 2009. Gibbs said JGR was still committed to Logano, but he stopped short of saying for how long.

The truth is, prior to Busch's latest inexcusable verbal abuse of another decent human being, Logano likely was in trouble at JGR. Maybe he still is. If last year proved anything, it is that one Cup victory sometimes isn't enough to save the job of a talented young driver who is a sponsor's dream. Right, David Ragan?

And, if Logano had gone winless this year and Busch had minded his volatile temper, who knows? It actually seemed much more likely that JGR might be willing to pull the trigger on hiring current driver Kyle Busch's older brother as a replacement for Logano at season's end.

Now? No way it happens.

Logano, still only 22, seems to be the kind of good kid younger fans are willing to root for. Sponsors like that. The sport needs it.

The stark truth

Some other really good things happened Sunday at Pocono Raceway. The race was shorter, having gone from 500 miles in length to 400 in a move that NASCAR would be smart to examine as a possibility at other tracks.

Logano had previously displayed considerable winning talent in the Nationwide Series. And, if anything, the 104-race winless streak he endured on the Cup side before Sunday's triumph only served to humble him and make him realize just how difficult it is to win at this level.

"[Kurt needs to] quit wrecking the cars, get a good finish, be nice to people. That's not hard to do."


Heck, that's the hard part of life as a race-car driver. As none other than Mr. Finch said during that radio interview last week, it's the easy things that have eluded Busch. Finch said then that Busch needed to "quit wrecking the cars, get a good finish, be nice to people. That's not hard to do."

Logano's on-track battle at the newly-repaved Pocono with Mark Martin, his mentor and longtime supporter, was highly entertaining -- bordering on epic. Afterward, they paid each other mutual respect and mildly debated whether Logano may have been out of line to lay a bumper to Martin and gingerly move him out of the way for the lead -- and ultimately to secure the victory -- with four of the 160 laps remaining in the event.

Questions were asked and answered. (And no, Logano did nothing wrong. In fact, in this age of Cup racing, what he did was not only perfectly acceptable, but also seemingly necessary if someone wants to get past someone at the end. If you can get to the other car's bumper and a victory is on the line, you do what you need to do).

More questions were asked and answered. No one berated anyone. Most, as Gordon pointed out earlier in the weekend at Pocono, fully understand what comes with the territory of being a NASCAR driver. By answering questions, mingling with fans and signing autographs and at least trying to be good guy -- even in the heat of the moment after a race -- it helps promote the overall good health of a sport that pays them well.

If a question is asked that a driver or crew chief or anyone else doesn't like or doesn't want answered, do what thousands of classy professional athletes and executives across all sports have done for decades: politely decline comment or even simply walk away without answering. That's acceptable.

Threatening another human being for attempting to do nothing more than the job he has been assigned to do is not. It's time Kurt Busch recognized that.

Losing his Cup ride and screwing up his possible future at one of NASCAR's top race organizations in JGR -- for the third time, no less, after wearing out his welcome at what is now Roush Fenway Racing and then Penske Racing -- might finally allow that message to sink in. In this case, through only his own fault and no one else's, it could be three strikes and he's out.

Shame on JGR if they attempt to hire him under any circumstances now or at any time in the foreseeable future. The elder Busch will still have the Nationwide ride his brother has granted him at Kyle Busch Motorsports to try to show he's finally a changed man and attempt to work his way back into the good graces of those that matter within the sport. But at this point, does anyone really think that will happen?

Logano winning Sunday at Pocono merely accentuated the point that Kurt Busch has worn out his welcome in the Cup Series. Parents put unruly children in timeout. And, if that doesn't work, the smart parents ratchet up the punishment by taking away things that matter most to the little brats until they show a true willingness to change.

For Kurt Busch, that would be a Cup ride. And at this point, it needs to be for more than one weekend.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.