Admit it. You got a little grin on your face this weekend when you heard the news. Kyle Busch fought with Richard Childress? Really? NASCAR's reigning enfant terrible squaring off against one of the oldest of old-school bulldogs? Could this be the greatest off-track story of the decade?
Once the facts came out, the story shifted a bit. Turns out Busch didn't actually do any fighting; "stopping fists with one's face" doesn't really count as combat. And while Kyle reportedly got knocked to the ground, by all accounts he didn't fight back at all. Which, in the sense of the greater good, is definitely for the best; Busch already has enough trouble with his reputation without adding "assault on a grandfather" to the list.
NASCAR sided with Busch, determining that he was free from blame in the incident while slapping (lightly) Childress with a $150,000 fine and probation. Here's the thing, though: while Childress deserved what he got (and more), he doesn't make a habit of taking swings at drivers he doesn't like.
Before we go any farther: Childress was in the wrong here. This was a premeditated attack, one that deserved a lot more severe punishment than the massage he got. But viewing any incident in the garage without considering context is short-sighted, so we're broadening the field of view a bit here to consider motivation as well as action.
Kyle Busch neither started the fight nor kept it going. But can he really be free from at least some measure of the blame for it happening at all?
Yes, this is a bit of "blame the victim" mentality. But calling Kyle Busch a "victim" in this story is stretching the definition of the word to its breaking point; this isn't the same thing as blaming a woman for getting assaulted because she was dressed provocatively. Busch may not have expected to be attacked, but he surely can't have been surprised.
Busch, of course, has a long history of disputes with other drivers, from Carl Edwards to Brad Keselowski to Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Denny Hamlin. And that's not even taking into account the drivers in the Childress camp, most notably Kevin Harvick, with whom Busch had a memorable sort-of throwdown in Darlington.
Saturday, the precipitating incident was a final-lap battle with RCR driver Joey Coulter during the trucks race. Coulter and Busch battled for the fifth position, and Coulter seized it on the final lap. After the race, Busch gave Coulter what's euphemistically referred to as a "love tap" — a thump in the door.
That's what set Childress off, and it warrants the question of why the hell Busch is throwing a bump to a 20-year-old kid in a developmental series. Seriously? Does Busch need to fight that hard for a fifth-place position in a series he could win going in reverse? What's he trying to prove here?
"I don't know that I did anything out of the ordinary that would provoke something of Mr. Childress," Busch said on Sunday. That may be the problem; banging and beating like that may not be "out of the ordinary" for Busch, but at some point, enough is enough. Throwing down like that in the Sprint Cup Series, where the sport's biggest prize is at stake? Sure, go for it. (Sometimes, though, the big guys fight back.) But throwing down like that in a developmental series is like bulldozing your elementary-school cousins during the Thanksgiving Day backyard football game.
Busch, of course, always has a "take what's mine, and take some of yours too" mentality, one that serves him well on the track. You can't argue with results; the guy is one of the most successful drivers in the sport and on a path to be one of the all-time greats. But at some point, he'll have to realize that, to paraphrase an old legal saying, his rights end where another driver's fender begins. If he's going to shove people out of the way on his way to the top, he can't be surprised if a few of them decide to shove back.
Posted Jun 24 2012
Posted Jun 24 2012
Posted Jun 23 2012