Busch learns the hard way

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 19, 2005

NASCAR has built its brand and success on being a family oriented sport. You very rarely here of NASCAR athletes having the same problems and issues as athletes in the other major sports have. And yes, NASCAR is a major sport and has worked hard to reach that status. There are morality clauses built in to every driver’s contract. This past weekend, Kurt Busch learned a hard and fast lesson about the morality clause in his contract and he also learned that the sponsors carry a tremendous amount of weight, on only in the boardroom, but in the garage, as well.

After being stopped for a traffic violation by a Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff’s Deputy, Busch became unruly and told the deputy, &uot;You are only doing this because you are a Jeff Gordon fan&uot; and asked &uot;Don’t you know who I am?&uot; After word of the stop and subsequent citation hit the media, Jack Roush indicated that nothing would be done. Busch would drive the final two races and he would be &uot;someone else’s problem next year.&uot; However, Diageo, the parent company of Crown Royal and one of the primary sponsors of Busch’s car, had different ideas. They called Roush’s hand, as did Newell-Rubbermaid, and suggested that he had voided his own morality clauses in their sponsorship contracts. The solution: yank Busch from the car for the remainder of the year.

Roush Racing president Geoff Smith said that the team was &uot;officially resigning as Kurt Busch apologists.&uot; That’s strong language. Somehow, I don’t think the management of Roush Racing is sad to see Busch move to Penske next season.

Oh, one last thought on this situation. Kurt would do himself a real favor by asking his little brother Kyle not to act as his defender. In what should have been a great moment for Kyle after winning the race in Phoenix, he pretty much made a fool of himself in Victory Lane. Not satisfied with that, he made a bigger fool of himself in the post-race interview room.

After 35 races, the championship will be decided this Sunday in Miami between the top four drivers in the standings: Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, and Greg Biffle. To win the championship, Stewart needs lead a lap and finish tenth in the race. In six career races in Miami, Stewart averages an eighth place finish and has won two races. In fact, Greg Biffle is the only other chase driver competing in the race to have won at this track.

I don’t think Stewart wins the race, but I think he wins the championship. Jeff Gordon has been as hot as any driver over the last few races and I believe he will finish out his ultra-disappointing 2005 season with a trip to victory lane.

Should be a good show in Miami, have fun and next week we will discuss the champions of the three top NASCAR divisions.