On lap 99 of the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Kurt Busch was leading when his No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevy lost fuel pressure. Busch spun off of Jamie McMurray’s bumper and slid down into the inside retaining wall.
Busch removed his helmet and climbed out of the car. But, after assessing the damage and figuring the car could be fixed, Busch jumped back into the car and attempted to drive it back to the garage. Safety crews were still working on the car as this happened, and Busch drove away while a crew member had his arm in the car and a medical kit was on top of his car. The medical kit fell off.
NASCAR ordered him to stop, to keep him from scattering debris on the track. But, because Busch didn’t have his helmet on, he didn’t get the message.
Eventually, he did stop and he was parked for the remainder of the afternoon.
Busch was making his final start in James Finch’s No. 51 car, as he moves to Furniture Row Racing’s No. 78  this week as he readies for 2013.
Afterwards Busch said:
This is the way my life works. Today is a perfect example: I am leading, I wreck, I run out of gas. I tried to get back in the race, and now NASCAR is yelling at me because I don’t have my helmet on, and I’m trying to get it to the garage so the guys can work on it. Now I’m in trouble. This little storm right here; this is my life. I’m not complaining; I put myself in a lot of these situations.
While I don’t see anything that, on its own, should have resulted in Busch getting parked, Busch isn’t given as much leeway as other drivers because of his other transgressions. He doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. For example, if a driver like Mark Martin or Jimmie Johnson did the same thing, I have a hard time believing NASCAR would have parked them for the rest of the race.
Busch, however, is subjected to more scrutiny and harsher penalties because of his previous actions. Almost anything Busch does or says during or after a tough run is attributed to anger, whether or not he is actually angry.
If Busch jumps in the car and drives off with no helmet, he may have done so to get back to the garage as fast as possible, so he didn’t lose more time. But, because of his history, it is assumed he did so in anger. If Busch drives off, knocking a medical kit off his car in the process, he may have drove off without seeing it. But, again because of his history, it is assumed that he drove off in anger, not waiting for the crew to get their equipment off the car.
Busch is right when he says he put himself in this situation. He doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt because of his previous behavior. And, he never will again.
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