Story and photo by: Drew Hierwarter
Along with my coffee this morning came the news that Kurt Busch has been fired by Penske Racing. Unless you’ve been prospecting for gold in Bolivia over the last few weeks you know about Busch’s tirade directed at veteran ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch while waiting to do a live interview at the season ending Homestead race.
His highly profane rant was captured by a fan with a cell phone video and almost immediately hit the internet like a tsunami. The initial result was a $50,000 fine from NASCAR and the obligatory public apologies from not only Busch himself, but also Penske Racing and sponsor Shell/Pennzoil.
This incident was really just the final straw after more than a few times Busch was verbally abusive to his team and his crew chief over the in-car radio during events. And several times this year he has lashed out at pit road reporters. These were all picked up by the television network and replayed after necessarily bleeping out the multiple obscenities. It had gotten bad enough that crew chief Steve Addington decided he didn’t need to put up with that anymore and announced several weeks ago that he would be leaving the team at the end of the season.
As recently as this past Thursday, when asked by reporters, Kurt Busch scoffed at the idea of his job being in jeopardy. Such was his arrogance.
And now the hammer has dropped and, as a result of a joint decision between Penske Racing and Shell/Pennzoil, Busch joins millions of regular Americans on the unemployment line.
There is still one more year on his contract which reportedly carries a $10 million/year base salary, but I imagine there’s a “naughty behavior” clause in there somewhere that will take care of it.
The question now is where will Busch go? The only way Busch will ever drive for Penske again is if he rents one of those big yellow trucks. He certainly can’t go back to Ford and Roush/Fenway. He burned that bridge a few years ago. There are no other Dodge teams, and all of the well funded Chevy teams are full up, thank you. Basically there’s no room at the inn for Kurt Busch.
And in this writer’s opinion, it’s about time. Busch’s arrogance clearly shows a lack of appreciation for the privileged lifestyle he has been afforded. And that lifestyle comes with a responsibility. The responsibility to realize that you are indeed blessed and that it could be lost at any time. And you owe something to the many people, sponsors, and yes, the media that helped you get there. There are very few people who get the opportunity to drive for top level teams in NASCAR’s elite division. And there are hundreds, maybe even thousands who would like to have the chance to drive at that level just once. All they need are the right breaks.
Kurt Busch got those breaks and then began to assume that he was above all that and now reality has finally kicked him in the butt. Maybe this time it will get his attention.