On Friday afternoon, Kurt Busch told his side of the Darlington story — you know, the one where he burned out through the pit stall of Ryan Newman, nearly pancaking his crew, and later ran into Newman's car on pit road. And he offered several perspectives that, on paper (or onscreen, whatever), sound reasonable enough:
• Regarding the idea that Busch tried to run over members of Newman's crew, whether intentionally or not: "Newman left his pit stall a good 10 seconds before I did, and I didn't think there was any reason to think crew guys were in danger," Busch said. "One guy has a problem with it, and it escalated from there." Busch noted that he was trying to beat the pace car to avoid going a lap down, which is a perfectly logical reason for speeding out of a pit box.
• Busch noted that both he and Newman would be battling for the same potential jobs as free agents in a few months, but declined to comment on the idea that Newman might be trying to paint him black in front of future owners.
• While Busch did not apologize to Newman's crew, he gave a curious apology to NASCAR itself: "I apologize to NASCAR for them to have to make a decision on penalizing me."
• The best line: Busch took issue with Newman calling him a liar and "chemically imbalanced," and noted that Newman "needs to check his trophy case on that Daytona 500 trophy that I helped him get years ago."
Sure, it all sounds very reasonable. Could in fact be the straight truth, or at least the truth as Busch himself sees it. But if you're going to believe a story different from your own, you need to give at least some credence to the other side, and Busch has pretty much used up all his goodwill with drivers, officials, sponsors, many fans and the media.
The idea that he wasn't pursuing any kind of aggressive agenda just minutes after the most unhinged on-air rant since Mel Gibson strains credibility, to put it mildly. Busch himself admitted as much when he acknowledged that his "strike zone" is larger than that of other drivers. And for that, he can point the finger in an awful lot of directions, but it always needs to come back to him.
Busch ended the interview after just eight minutes, referencing the pro wrestling/entertainment side of NASCAR on several occasions. It's a dangerous game of speak-your-mind, damn-the-consequences he's playing here, one that could determine his future career prospects.
Busch set his personality-rehab cause back months at Darlington; he's now got work to do once again to convince future owners he's worth a shot. Can he do it? Sure, but as before, it's all on his shoulders. Nobody else's. And it's likely few will be going out of their way to make life easier for him, either.