Before last Saturday’s Southern 500 at Darlington, some vocal NASCAR fans had been complaining about the lack of action in this year’s races. While experts continue to debate rules changes that could bring some excitement back to the sport, bad boy driver Kurt Busch added some old-school thrills of his own.
With just six laps to go, Busch was forced into the pits after a flat tire caused him to wreck. Frustrated, he did a burnout through Ryan Newman’s pit box on his way back to the track, angering that driver’s pit crew. After the race, Busch accidentally-on-purpose ran into Newman’s car on pit road, which started a melee between Busch and members of both pit crews. That last provocation is where Busch went wrong, according to Steven Levine, who covers NASCAR for the Sporting News and Rowdy.com.
“Look, Kurt Busch has a temper,” Levine told Bill Littlefield for this week’s Only A Game. “He lost his ride at Penske racing because of his temper and this season is supposed to be the season in which he rebuilds his image. So far he’s not doing a really good job of that.”
Busch was fined $50,000 and put on probation for nine weeks (which Levine compares to “you and me giving up our double-tall skinny hazelnut lattes for a month.”) NASCAR was clearly more frustrated with Busch’s motorcoach driver, Craig Strickler, who was fined $5000 and put on probation for the rest of the calendar year. Stricker’s crime? Getting in the way of a Fox Sports cameraman who was attempting to broadcast the kerfuffle.
Levine wasn’t surprised at NASCAR’s priorities. After all, the 1979 Daytona 500 fistfight between Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers helped to put NASCAR on the map.
“This used to be much more commonplace than it is now,” Levine explained. ”So now when tempers flare and fists are thrown, man, we gotta get the cameras in there quickly because we don’t know when we’re going to have the privilege of viewing such tempers again.”