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« Hendrick Motorsports claims historic 200th victory in Darlington | Main | Blame points system and the CoT for lack of excitement in 2012 »

Darlington Notes: Danica gets an A+, Junior takes a step backward and Kurt steps forward

By admin | May 13, 2012

By Richard Allen

 

Here are a few notes, observations and other ramblings regarding the Bojangles Southern 500 at the Darlington Raceway:

Danica’s A+- On a night of Danica Patrick overload during her second Sprint Cup start, Michael Waltrip made what had to have been the most ridiculous statement of the entire broadcast. During a mid-race assessment of the former IndyCar driver’s race to that point, the team owner and part time driver who doubles as a ‘NASCAR on Fox’ analyst declared, “You have to give her an A+ for tonight’s effort.” At the time she was running outside the top-30 and was four laps down.

Danica eventually finished 31st, six laps down.

A number of my students at Seymour High School no doubt wish Mr. Waltrip would be the person assigning grades at the end of this semester. Just think of the grade drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch would have been given. There isn’t even a scale for that.

I know, I know. ‘Fenders still on the car’ ‘Just getting seat time’ ‘Learning what it takes to make these cars go fast’, etc…

Just for the sake of comparison, both Jamie McMurray and Trevor Bayne won their second Sprint Cup starts. Just sayin’. Again, I know. ‘Not the same thing’ ‘Not a fair comparison’, etc…

During Saturday’s pre-race show on Speed, analyst Kyle Petty said, “Everybody thinks I’m a critic. I’m not a critic of Danica. I’m a critic of the hype.” That’s the way I feel and based on Twitter responses after the statement was made, it appears to be the way many others feel. But the excessive hype is making a joke of Danica’s NASCAR entry. So, there are going to be plenty of critics as long as the bombardment continues.

Junior takes a step backward- Speaking of hype, I’m sure everyone would agree that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is much improved this season and is now deserving of the attention he is receiving. However, his 2012 efforts took a step back on Saturday night as he struggled much of the evening with an ill handling car on his way to a 17th place finish.

The driver himself admitted that the team’s run in Darlington was more like those of previous years rather than those made during this season.. “This was a typical type race for us last year but it’s our worst race this year,” Junior told crew chief Steve Letarte in the midst of the battle.

That’s a good thing if a team’s worst run of the current season is still as good, if not better than, runs from earlier campaigns. However, that is only true if the poor run proves to be a one time event and not the start of a downward trend.

Junior’s finish still allowed him to maintain the 3rd spot in the Sprint Cup standings.

Kurt steps forward- While Junior may have taken a step backward, the real Kurt Busch may have stepped forward on Saturday night.

Throughout much of the 500 mile race, the older of the two Busch brothers did a brilliant job of keeping a completely unsponsored car inside the top-10 on the tough old track. However, a late race brush with the wall and a spin sent the often volatile driver into one of his renowned tirades.

Recall that after losing his ride at Penske Racing and signing on with the much less funded Phoenix Racing, Busch declared that he was going to relax and just have fun this season.

Ryan Newman, who had not been particularly close to Busch at the time of his incident, was also involved in the aftermath after receiving a tap from another driver which sent him sliding to the inside wall.

“Every f**king week!” Busch shouted into his team radio in reference to the fact that several decent runs in 2012 have slipped away at the end of the race. But the story did not end with that moment.

After the checkered flag waved and the drivers were making their way back to the garage area, Busch banged the rear of Newman’s car on pit road. It’s at that point where stories vary as to what took place.

Busch claimed that he was in the process of removing his helmet and lost his focus, which is why he ran into Newman. In rebuttal, Newman told reporter Dustin Long that he believed Busch to be a liar as he obviously considered the pit road bump intentional. There was also a claim that Busch had driven through a Stewart-Haas Racing(Newman’s team) pit area recklessly.

As a result of all this post-race frivolity, a fracas broke out between the Busch and Newman crews. While no serious damage appeared to have been done in the melee, a NASCAR official was toppled onto the hood of one of the cars by a Newman crew member. That could draw a penalty from the sanctioning body.

So much for Kurt Busch’s season of fun. He finished 21st and is now 25th in the standings.

Hendrick Motorsports reaches a milestone- Had it not been for the post-race shenanigans, the story of the race would have been dominated by the fact that Hendrick Motorsports achieved its 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup victory when Jimmie Johnson crossed the finish line ahead of the pack in Darlington. Here is a more complete look at that accomplishment—> http://racingwithrich.com/?p=1799

Topics: Articles |

15 Responses to “Darlington Notes: Danica gets an A+, Junior takes a step backward and Kurt steps forward”

  1. Sue Rarick Says:
    May 13th, 2012 at 10:50 am

    As Paul Harvey used to say, “And now for the rest of the story”.

    Ryan Newman came over to Kurts car while they were on the track after Kurt’s spin. I just wonder what Newman said to him, because Kurt’s spin and Newman’s were for all intents unrelated (someone else spun Newman).

    Knowing Newman’s ability to be a wiseass, I wonder if Kurt ‘taking off his helmet’ was a response to Mr Wiseguy’s comment?

    From his comments afterwards I tend to think Newman was rubbing Kurt’s present situation in his face. Although I can understand that. Afterall he was second banana to Kurt at Penske and after all these years he doesn’t have a championship and Kurt does. Petty, but understandable.

  2. Offkilter Says:
    May 13th, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Not so sure kurt’s 21st place finish after riding the wall and subsequent spin to another cracked racecar could be considered a step forward. Not to mention yet another melt down on pit road after the race. Oh well, unlike my prediction, he’s still being talked about

  3. Richard Allen Says:
    May 13th, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Offkilter,

    That’s not the type of stepping forward I was talking about.

    The real Kurt Busch stepped forward out of the shadows and pushed the fake Kurt back into the shadows.

  4. Sam Says:
    May 13th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    As you know, I am a big Kurt fan and had hoped that he was on track to be the driver he once was (still is, just without the attitude). Then comes another incident, outburst, and a visit to the hauler.

    I don’t think Finch will keep him on long with these kinds of antics and with no primary sponsor. To me, it is another sad nail in the coffin of his racing career.

    I hope I am wrong, but man, who is is taking anger management from? Charlie Sheen?

  5. Offkilter Says:
    May 13th, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Richard… I missed the one word (real)in your opening sentence of the kb paragraph. That makes sense now. Thanks for taking the time to clear that up.

  6. Tony Geinzer Says:
    May 13th, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Hello, everybody, I hate to evolve into Bob Jenkins, for the love of my sport, but, Kurt Busch needs to be Suspended by NASCAR for the 1st Time in his career! It’s criminal Kurt is stealing money as Jack Sprague don’t got no Late Model and Kurt is No Role Model,OK! Finch knew better than to stoop for Kurt when he had Neil Bonnetts, Sterling Marlins, Jeff Purvis and Brad Keselowskis! My feeling is the fans won’t take Kevin, Kurt or Kyle and Mrs. Firesuit and Sammy make actually head for the mountains of divorce. Rich, I don’t like being Mr. Poor Sport, but Mike Helton needs to suspend Kurt,man.

  7. Tyler West Says:
    May 13th, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Newman is a total jerk just like his boss. He has no personality and just about cries when they go to plate tracks. I can’t stand him! I’m sick of people trying to turn everything Busch does into more that it was. He is one of the best competitors out there. In fact the sport needs more fiery drivers like him. These bland pretenders like Newman are part of the real problem with Nascar these days. Newman talks crap all the time when he knows others can’t retaliate against him. Let him and his owner go do something else. Both are total pricks! Bland racing, bland drivers, and PC interviews are really putting butts in the seats. Also, who wouldn’t be totally pissed if their season was marred with nothing but bad luck. Busch is one of the few drivers out there that make Nascar worth watching. Everyone talking crap, I hate to tell you but this is racing! I don’t care if the driver gets mad over the radio. Damn man what the hell are they supposed to do? Keep kissing butt to all the ‘loyal” fans. Give me a freaking break and let Kurt do his thing if ya don’t like it go watch Dancing with the Stars or some other crap. Kick but Kurt!

  8. Dennis Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 5:31 am

    I thought Kurt’s tirades were mostly tied to his frustration with his Penske cars not being as competitive as Roger thought they were. But, it seems as if Kurt may have had anger issues for a much longer time and I’m really only becoming more acutely aware of them now. This does NOT seem like a driver with a fresh start and a new attitude. This does seem like someone who has a very bad habit of blowing up and being abusive towards others. I’ve been following Kurt since his truck days but it’s getting tough to be a fan of his.

    Kurt…. you need help, my friend. I’m not trying to be funny. This is serious.

  9. Chris Fiegler Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Do you think that Danica Patrick will win a Sprint Cup Series race in the Future?

  10. Jeff Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 10:23 am

    @Dennis - I’m with you…

    I’ve been following Kurt since he first stepped into the 97 John Deere ride to take over for Chad Little. I’ve been fortunate to meet Kurt off the track on several occassions and can honestly say - off the track - this guy is one of the nicest, most genuinely caring, down to earth drivers that I’ve ever met (and I’ve met plenty). However, when he crawls into that car… wow…

    I hope - I sincerely hope - that Kurt figures himself out. Alot drivers have done it. Harvick, Montoya, and most notably - Stewart. Everyone remember when he punched the photographer in Indy? That was his turning point…

    I was hoping Kurt’s turning point was his release from Penske - but listening to him on the radio - same old guy. I’m sure the divorce messed with his head - it had to. But at some point… you’ve got to right the ship.

    I’m hoping its soon because it’s really getting REAL hard to keep hoping for the turn around. At some point, you’ve got to take accountability and help yourself.

    Comparison - the 24 is having an AWFUL year… in championship equipment. You don’t hear him berating his team. Yes, he’s frustrated… but he’s professional about it.

    That is what Kurt needs to figure out. If this truly is his “audition” year as he has called it… (in my opinion)… he’s blowing it.

  11. Gordon85Wins Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Rich, in another column today you discussed why the sport is experiencing a lack of excitement in 2012. I’m only speculating but I think that the Danica hype is adding to the mix. I’m not trashing her personally, but listening to Waltrip give her an A+…for finishing 31ST, for crying out loud…that’s exactly the kind of insult fans are sick of. We keep hearing how much she’s learning…learning is what drivers are supposed to do at the lower levels, not in Cup.

    Imagine if the Yankees brought a female up to the top level of the sport to sell tickets because she looked good in a swimsuit, rather than because of her hitting ability. If she batted a steady .120 for the Yankees despite being in front of Alex Rodriguez in the order, and we were constantly hearing how great she’s going to be and how much was learning with her starts, baseball fans might get disgusted and tune out. I’ve never seen any sport that thinks their fans are so dumb.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but the Danica races and the gushing over her every time she completes a lap are absolutely unwatchable. Final nail in the interest in NASCAR coffin for me–no longer watching ANY races. This once great sport is an utter joke.

  12. jerseygirl24 Says:
    May 14th, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Jeff, thank you for pointing out the difference between the way Gordon handles a frustrating situation than KuBu. Hey, I listen to Gordon’s scanner and he gets angry and frustrated too, but he never abuses his crew chief and team - sure he cusses, but it’s not personal.

    Is Newman a smart aleck? Sure, I don’t like him much either and I’m sure he had a remark that made Busch even madder. I can understand why KuBu feels the way he does, but acting out on pit road isn’t the way to handle it.

  13. OLDNASCAR Says:
    May 15th, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Wow Danica finishes 31st 6 laps down and they treat her like she won the race.
    the only reason for the HIGH OF A FINISH was that their were 6 start and parks in the field, and the rest had rest behind her had issues during the race.

  14. mikeyfan Says:
    May 15th, 2012 at 9:29 am

    If Kurt had really endangered anyone in the Newman pit when he left doesn’t anyone think a NASCAR official would have reported to the tower and he would have been parked or at least brought in for a consultation? Think about it. Kurt finished on the lead lap. How ’bout the fact he was trying to beat the pace car down pit road so he could stay on the lead lap and Newman’s crew in frustration over reacted like their driver and started to cry about almost being run over. Heck you can say all pit memebers are “almost run over” each and every week. No it was Ryan who over reacted but since Kurt was involved the Reporters naturally assume he was in the wrong.

    So Let’s give the NASCAR officials a little credit, they didn’t think what Kurt did was wrong, so what is the story? The story is Ryans crew members need to be fined for making a fool of themselves on pit road.

  15. Kevin Says:
    May 15th, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Jamie McMurray & Trevor Bayne may have won in their 2nd start, but their 2nd start wasn’t at Darlington.

    I don’t agree with all the hype or praise surrounding Danica, however, I don’t disagree with Michael’s comments either. It is hardly fair to grade Danica in comparison to past champions & vast talents such as Stewart, Johnson & Ky Busch. You have to grade Danica’s performance based on her own abilities. Did she drive the race conservative? Yes, she did. But she didn’t get in anyones way, she didn’t hit the wall, she finished the race & she learned a hell of a lot. Did she finish 6 laps down? Sure she did. Did she hit the pit road cone & get a penatly? Yes. Would I have given her an A+? No. But she performed better than I expected her to perform, and for that reason, she is deserving of a B grade at the conclusion of the race. It just isn’t fair at this point to grade Danica based on your expectations of ten year veterans of the sport, or two drivers who happened to win in their second start. I could make a heck of a lot longer list of drivers who finished 32nd or worse in their second start than you can make of drivers who won in their second start.

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