Sometimes in NASCAR a change of scenery is good for someone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a driver, crew chief, spotter, even all the way down to a painter at the shop; a change often will lead to good things. Look at what Matt Kenseth was able to do last year when he ran his first full year with Joe Gibbs Racing, this after a 12-year run with Roush, including a championship in 2003.
But, sometimes a change of scenery is not exactly what one had in mind, but more or less was needed due to one’s take on the team.
Case in point, Mr. Kurt Busch. At the end of the 2011 season, it was already made clear that he was no longer going to be the driver for Penske Racing. That year he did win two races, but during the Chase he experienced a couple melt downs not necessarily with racing, but in fact NASCAR and media. Here’s what I mean: at New Hampshire, his car was late coming to inspection, and even when doing so, his car would not pass. The team then went back and fixed the problem causing the failure, and went through again to pass. But, NASCAR forced them to wait longer, literally rolling the car to the grid during the national anthem.
Busch didn’t know about the issue till he was on the grid himself, and that race didn’t go well for him. At the end of the year at Homestead, after just a few laps, the transmission gave out in his car, and his day was practically done. While in the garage, ESPN reporter, and very well-respected individual, Dr. Jerry Punch wanted to interview him, but he in essence told him off. I can’t say what was said because let’s face it, this is a family-oriented website and I know children read this. Let’s just say he took it out on him, and NASCAR punished him.
Over the last couple years, Busch has only been given one-year contracts, the first in 2012 with Phoenix Racing in the No. 51. He was competitive at times, but his attitude again got him in trouble at Dover in June. He again went off on media member Bob Pockrass, and already being on probation for an earlier incident in the year, NASCAR then parked him for the following week at Pocono.
Him being forced to sit on the sidelines changed him, and really since then his attitude has gotten better. He ended the year getting his feet wet with Furniture Row Racing whom he competed with all last year, and showed that the team is not just a strong single-car operation, but it’s one capable of winning multiple races.
This year, Gene Haas, part owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, signed Busch to drive a fourth SHR car, and despite the slow start, he was still confident. It was his first season in a top-tier team since his tenure at Penske, so he was eager to get going. This weekend, at Martinsville, Busch showed he still could muscle his way to the top, while still showing some of his angry side. Ironically, he angered the driver that took over the No. 2 ride in his final year with Penske, Brad Keselowski, on pit road. That scuffle went into words, and even more on the track, thanks to a little bumping minus a bumper and a single-finger wave out the window.
But, despite that setback, Busch held on and won over Jimmie Johnson for his first win in 83 races, dating back to the fall Dover race in 2011. Quite a turnaround for this former champion.
He calls himself the “Outlaw” of the sport, and it has even been put above his door because he brings that old-school mentality to the sport of doing things his way, and not being sorry. He is no Dale Earnhardt, but he found his own niche, and that’s alright by me.
RESULTS: 1-Kurt Busch 2-Johnson 3-Earnhardt Jr. 4-Logano 5-Ambrose 6-Kenseth 7-Harvick 8-Almirola 9-Bowyer 10-Menard
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Gordon 13-Edwards 14-Kyle Busch 17-Stewart 19-Hamlin 38-Keselowski
CAUTIONS: 14 for 92 laps. Lap 3-10 (#30 accident-T3), 42-47 (Competition), 104-109 (#17 accident-T2), 115-119 (#7, 32, 38 accident-T3), 171-178 (#13 spin-T2), 201-207 (#1, 88 accident-T2), 220-225 (#23 accident-T4), 232-237 (Debris-T1), 251-257 (#83 accident-T4), 316-322 (#66 accident-T4), 341-346 (#42 spin-T2), 350-357 (Debris-BS), 412-417 (#78 accident-T2), 460-465 (#99 spin-T2).
LEAD CHANGES: 33 among 12 drivers. Kyle Busch 1-16, Kenseth 17-20, Johnson 21-43, Kvapil 44, Johnson 45-55, Kenseth 56-58, Kyle Busch 59-64, Logano 65-81, Johnson 82-105, Kenseth 106-110, Logano 111-132, Johnson 133-154, Biffle 155-172, Ambrose 173-194, Kenseth 195-212, Johnson 213-221, Earnhardt Jr. 222-236, Allmendinger 237, Earnhardt Jr. 238-242, Kurt Busch 243-244, Johnson 245-252, Harvick 253, Kenseth 254-259, Earnhardt Jr. 260-264, Johnson 265-283, Bowyer 284-287, Johnson 288-346, Bowyer 347, Johnson 348-449, Bowyer 450-460, Johnson 461-472, Kurt Busch 473-482, Johnson 483-489, Kurt Busch 490-500.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 38 Mins, 38 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 72.176 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.263 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS: 1. Earnhardt Jr, 227 points*; 2. Kenseth, -9; 3. Edwards, -10*; 4. Gordon, -11; 5. Johnson, -18; 6. Kyle Busch, -38*; 7. Keselowski, -39*; 8. Logano, -40; 9. Dillon, -48; 10. Newman, -53.
*Race Winner, Eligible for Chase