You have to respect Penske Racing for having the guts to part ways with Kurt Busch. You don't have to, but you should.
Busch is very good at his job. But he talks on the radio to his crew the way a gang member would talk to a rival gang. He's condescending and he's rude. If a quarterback talked that way to his offensive line, he'd get sacked every time he dropped back to pass.
Busch was sacked less, of course, for how he treated his crew than for how he treated the media. His outbursts were chronicled; you can find them on YouTube. His sponsors did.
During NASCAR's Sprint Cup season at Homestead-Miami, Busch called a TV reporter a - I can't print what he called him. The outburst was long and classless.
At Richmond, Busch denied making a statement. When a transcript of an interview was produced that showed he indeed did make the statement, he picked the transcript up and ripped it in half on the first try.
This is one more reason Busch has never challenged Dale Earnhardt Jr. for NASCAR's most popular driver award. Busch, 33, might not even be the most popular Busch. If fans voted on which brother they liked better, Kyle Busch might win.
Let's go to the ballots: After two months of voting, Kyle leads 3-2.
I wrote a critical column about Kurt in November of 2005. I don't know if he read it, but his father, Al Busch, did. Al told my late colleague David Poole that if he ran into me he was going to beat me up. He's a dad, I ripped his kid, I understood the sentiment.
A month later I ran into Kurt at a U2 concert at Time Warner Cable Arena. We sat almost next to each other. In that context, he was fun to be around. He was courteous and unpretentious.
Busch's defenders - he must have some - will say that the guy I encountered at the concert is the real Kurt Busch. They'll say that he contends with pressure a guy like me can't understand and he's a world-class athlete and his competitive nature doesn't turn off when he talks to the media at the track.
The explanation is trash. It always is. Do you think Busch wants to win more than Jimmie Johnson does? Johnson is, despite his extraordinary success and the spirit behind it, a testament to class and grace.
Busch doesn't have to be Johnson. But maybe he could fake it.
I've always wondered if Busch's outbursts were at least a little calculated. Without them he is as intimidating as a pharmacist.
To look at him is to think of a guy who would say, "Now Mrs. Olson, you take one pill with breakfast and one with dinner, like the instructions on the bottle say, and if you have any questions don't hesitate to call."
To look at him is not to think of a guy who would call TV reporter Dr. Jerry Punch a bad name or rip a little paper transcript in half.
Maybe part of Busch wants to be a bad boy. Or maybe at some point in his life somebody told him he was entitled and, unfortunately, he believed it.
Racing is part of what Busch does. But he also has to appease sponsors. And if you think that's unfair, you don't understand racing.
Sponsors pay enormous money to help underwrite the team for which Busch drives. Sponsors are entitled. They're entitled to a driver who is strong enough and secure enough and sane enough not go off because, oh no, not everything went his way.
Busch is a talent, and he'll get another job. Talent talks.
Sponsors talk louder.