Hot/Not: Talladega actions show Kurt Busch hasn't turned any pages

Kurt Busch can't blame a competitive desire for decisions that aren't safe

Yahoo Contributor Network

Kurt Busch, obviously, is the latest victim of a witch hunt led by NASCAR and the people it butters up with free (mostly fried) food to spread their gospel to the masses. More narrowly, it's his competitive desire that NASCAR and those people, The Media, hate. NASCAR, obviously yet for no good reason, wants to keep their former champion down while The Media wants to pile on Kurt in the name of page views, eyeballs and bought newspapers.

But Kurt Busch, obviously, is too competitive for NASCAR to understand and handle. He can see past The Media's agenda of always trying to prod, always to trying to provoke. He's a simple man, a guy who really just wants to win. It's a fire that burns deep. He just doesn't want to let his team down - even if the race car they've had to rebuild countless times this season is once again damaged and limping.

Is it too much that a guy just wants to get his car to the garage? For NASCAR and The Media, in Busch's world, it obviously is. The gall.

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Kurt Busch was parked during Sunday's race. (Getty Images)

That fanatical version of events is pretty much the way Busch seemed to picture it Sunday after he was officially parked from the Good Sam 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Busch was parked by NASCAR - ejected is the term other sports use - thanks to actions that undoubtedly endangered the people paid to make sure he's safe.

After oddly hugging and otherwise embracing the Phoenix Racing crew members he often berated this season - odd because it sure looked like Busch knew the cameras were on - Busch stepped up to do what he loves best: chat with the ever-inquisitive media.

The first stop was ESPN for a live interview just as the race had gone back green and things seemed normal. First, he explained what had happened to cause his wreck (he unexpectedly ran out fuel and was turned by a trailing Jamie McMurray) and then equated the miscalculation to the theme of the year for his Phoenix Racing adventure.

"We had all the potential in the world, but we just never pulled it together for 500 miles," Busch said.

But then ESPN's Mike Massaro had to ask why Busch, now out of the event due to a NASCAR penalty, didn't heed NASCAR's directive to stop after peeling away from his initial stopping point with a paramedic's bag on his roof and at least one other official leaning in the side window.

The ultimate answer? He's just too competitive. Oh, and he didn't have his helmet on.

"I tried like heck (to get it back to the garage)," Busch said, noting he had hopped out of the car, saw the car would still roll and got back in. "That's the competitor in me, that's the desire I have. That's what gets misconstrued all of the time."

It was just the start of a rambling narrative from Busch that played heavily on the woe-is-me card, and completely ignored the real reason why he had been parked: making an absurd and dangerous decision to unexpectedly fly away from the accident scene without apparently warning any of the people paid to help him. In fact, he never once mentioned the safety workers around his car or seemed to recognize the danger he had put them in.

The interview, once ESPN's cameras had turned off, ended after a just a few questions from NASCAR's media corps about Busch's actions with him sternly announcing "I had my helmet off!" as he began to walk away.

If Busch had not gotten out of his car, that's a story that could have teetered on being believable. Instead, Busch directly avoided the central issue of his actions and instead chose to focus on another (his lack of helmet to hear NASCAR's call) that was straight from a politician's playbook.

In and of itself, that avoidance of personal responsibility in the name of being competitive was a microcosm of Busch's personality traits that have pushed his career off the championship track. Busch, despite being fired from Penske Racing for the same thing, still managed to spout enough verbal abuse at a reporter this year to get suspended. He's also irrationally bumped cars on pit road after a race (a NASCAR no-no) and has served as a common source of incredibly demeaning vitriol toward his teams on the in-car radio.

Sunday at Talladega showed us that Busch still seems to think all those actions and reactions are justifiable thanks to his competitive personality. Flying off the handle is OK, he says, as long as you're doing it to win.

It's a noble cause that probably works in industries that don't require teamwork or conscious choices in the name of safety. Unfortunately for Busch and those who defend him, NASCAR isn't one of them.

Kurt Busch - not NASCAR as a sanctioning body or the media that covers him - is the one failing to properly analyze the issues he is causing. Sunday's actions and reactions, and the smile-and-nod interview overflowing with sneering insincerity, show that Busch hasn't changed his ways from the guy who unnecessarily belittles others and makes caustic, dangerous choices simply because he can. He's a long way shaking that ever-hovering and self-inflicted cloud of criticism and trouble in this sport.

Being competitive is fine. Using it as the crutch to explain each and every action, however, isn't.

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Brad Keselowski is in the catbird seat. (AP)

NOT: NASCAR has been and is better than finishing races with a 25-car pileup. Let's hope the 2013 car can alleviate the absurdity that comes with the current form of pack racing. Close racing is good, but parking lot racing isn't.

HOT: It's going to be awful hard to bet against Brad Keselowski now.

HOT: Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth made two incredible saves Sunday when they were turned on to the apron while racing near the front of the lead pack. Blind luck or not, moments like that define how good these drivers can be.

NOT: Carl Edwards has to be miserable right about now.

HOT: David Ragan and Regan Smith picked up top-five finishes simply because they somehow made it through the big wreck. It's not a recognition of how good they were, but it's got to be thrilling nonetheless. For Smith, it was a nice way to leave a team who is undoubtedly making a decision that could backfire on them.

NOT: I don't blame Denny Hamlin for racing at the back all day, but I do hate that NASCAR has a racing format that makes that OK. It's a less of a hating the player thing and more of a hating the game thing.

HOT: Does Jeff Gordon have time - or will Keselowski have enough bad luck - for him to actually get back in the championship fight? He's been racing from behind all year thanks to bad luck, and has now strung together nothing but top-5's since his throttle stuck at Chicago.

NOT: Is it time for NASCAR to consider leveling penalties when drivers make dangerous blocking moves like Tony Stewart did on the final lap Sunday? Or is that too Formula 1 for the NASCAR crowd. Something to consider…

Enjoy Charlotte, Saturday night!

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