File this under moments of the absurd. In the midst of setting the field for the Chase and a wild one at Richmond, it was a very angry Kurt Busch who was catching everyone’s attention.
Following Saturday night’s race Busch got into a dispute with not one, but two members of the NASCAR press corps after they asked questions about the ability of Busch or Jimmie Johnson to win the championship given their simmering feud.
NASCAR.com’s Joe Menzer was first up.
After the live television interview on pit road, Menzer asked Busch, “Kurt, can either you or Jimmie win the Chase?” but Busch cut him off, saying, “How did I see you were going to come with that? We’re good.”
After Busch began to walk away Menzer shouted at him that it was a legitimate question given what occurred on track between the two. Busch in turn charged back at Menzer shouting obscenities – his crew members restrained him.
The Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer was up next.
In media center interviews after the race, Fryer questioned Johnson about Busch’s comment, and Busch interrupted, saying, “I didn’t say that tonight. Did not.” Fryer showed Busch the transcript of his live-television comments. He took it from her, tore it and put it back on the counter.
The actions of a 32-year-old or a 12-year-old? I’ll let you be the judge.
Once known for having a more combative demeanor, Busch has, at least in his public persona, been mellowing in recent years. His radio traffic – and apparently this incident – is a notable exception.
When Kurt’s unhappy in the car he’s sure to let the crew know. Two years ago at the spring race in Martinsville, Busch, upset about how his car was running, got into it with his team owner Roger Penske, notably calling the billionaire businessman and titan of motorsports, “dude.”
The confluence of the outburst over the weekend and the regular berating of people over the radio present an interesting dichotomy of Kurt Busch. Publicly he puts on a good face and hawks Pennzoil – in less public situations the Kurt Busch of old is alive and well.
It’s fair that Busch’s blood pressure was up after the race Saturday night. And I think it’s fair that he wasn’t in the mood to answer certain questions. But behaving like a petulant child makes him look bad, and puts his sponsor in a bad position. It was incredibly unfortunate behavior from a former champion.