NASCAR Notebook: Kurt Busch takes umbrage at Newman's post-Darlington comments
By: By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
CONCORD, N.C. -- Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman are friends -- at least they were.
As late as 2008, the drivers were teammates at Penske Racing, and in the first race of that season, Busch pushed Newman to victory in the Daytona 500.
In light of their past relationship, Busch took offense at Newman's comments after last Saturday's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, an event that ended with Newman's No. 39 Stewart-Haas crew -- specifically gas man Andy Rueger -- confronting the driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet.
Busch blew a tire and hit the wall off Turn 2 late in the race. Newman checked up behind Busch and was turned into the inside wall by Aric Almirola. Both Busch and Newman brought their cars to pit road for repairs.
Newman left his pit stall first. Busch burned rubber through Newman's adjacent stall, producing a cloud of smoke, while several of Newman's crew members were still in the box. After the race, Busch bumped Newman's car on pit road, claiming he was removing his helmet and didn't realize how close he was to Newman's Chevy.
Newman didn't buy the explanation, which he termed "a lie." Newman also referred to Busch's "chemical imbalance," absent any medical evidence to support that assertion.
"Newman and I were friends," said Busch, who on Tuesday was fined $50,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until July 25 for reckless driving on pit road. "We were great teammates. And he needs to check his trophy case on that Daytona 500 trophy that I helped him get years ago.
"We were always great friends. There was no need for his comments afterwards. He knew his Southern 500 didn't go the way he wanted it to, and at the end of the night everyone is hot and pissed off. The Daytona 500 is a big race. Darlington 500 is just as big of an event, and a lot of people get excited for it. I wanted to finish in the top 10 and we didn't get that top-10 finish. So it was a tough night and it all went bad in a hurry."
In defense of his burnout through the Newman pit, Busch said he was trying to avoid the loss of a lap.
"We just wanted to finish on the lead lap," Busch said. "So I was trying to get off pit road as quick as I could. Newman, he left his pit a good 10 seconds before us, and I didn't think there was any reason to think that any of the crew guys were in danger.
"One guy (Rueger) has a problem with it, and it just escalated from there."
FINAL SEGMENT STRATEGY
Given the importance of track position for the final 10-lap segment of Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race, drivers are unlikely to take tires during a mandatory pit stop before the dash for the $1 million top prize.
Greg Biffle says he expects the winner of the race to come from the first three rows on the final restart -- whether a driver has new rubber or not.
"There's no mystery to what's going to happen," Biffle told the NASCAR Wire Service. "Track position is what's going to win the race, and we'll see what this track thinks of new tires. As the track ages, as the tire is maybe a little bit different . . . the same tire, but maybe it acts a little different on the racetrack -- so after 20 laps, we'll see how important a new tire is.
"Maybe it doesn't really matter that much, so we'll have some practice and a little bit of the race to figure that out -- but you've got to be at the front at the end. You're not going to win from the fourth, fifth or sixth row just because you have new tires, I don't think. Anything can happen, but it's going to be track position, and maybe it's two tires, maybe it's no tires (on the final stop)."
NO RACING FOR GEORGIA REPUBLICAN?
Jack Kingston, a Republican Congressman from Georgia, has joined the crusade of Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) to bar the Department of Defense from sports-related advertising for the military.
McCollum and Kingston co-sponsored an amendment to the 2013 defense appropriations bill that would end sports sponsorships by the military. The bill, including the amendment, already has passed the House Appropriations Committee.
The bill is a long way from becoming law, with a full House vote and passage by the Senate still required, but the measure could jeopardize the National Guard sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the U.S. Army's backing of Ryan Newman.
Kingston, who has never attended a NASCAR race, said the Pentagon had a year since McCollum introduced a similar measure last year to prove the value of sports sponsorships -- and had not done so.
Perhaps Kingston hasn't talked to the right people. Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley of the U.S. Army Accessions Command (which oversees recruiting) said last year that the Army's NASCAR program had produced more than 46,000 bona fide recruiting leads in 2010 from its NASCAR program alone.
Earnhardt suggested that the amendment's sponsors should do more homework before drawing conclusions. He's also surprised a Republican from the South hasn't made a play for the "NASCAR Dads" audience.
"Yeah, just because he's a Republican from Georgia, he should have been to a NASCAR race by now," Earnhardt quipped.
AMBROSE PROUD OF A CHEVY?
Marcos Ambrose drives a Ford in the Sprint Cup Series, but that doesn't mean the Tasmanian driver can't be proud of an Australian product that will make its way into NASCAR's top division next year.
Chevrolet recently announced its 2013 model for the Cup series, a rear-wheel drive SS performance sedan that owes its origins to such vehicles as the Camaro and upcoming VF Commodore, a product of the Holden subsidiary of General Motors in Australia.
"It's the wrong make, so I want to be a little careful of what I say here, but I'm really proud to think that Australia can produce, with their people and infrastructure, a world-standard car that Chevrolet would like to bring to the U.S. and sell here," Ambrose told the NASCAR Wire Service.
"I've grown up driving rear-wheel-drive cars, manual cars -- it's just a standard thing out there. It's a world-class product, and I look forward to racing against them and beating them, but it's definitely made a buzz in Australia."