Busch downplays spat

Associated Press
Kurt Busch said he and owner Roger Penske are "on the same page" after last week's verbal sparring on their radio during a race as Busch's frustrations spilled over. Busch finished 18th.

FORT WORTH, Texas --- The exchange on the radio between frustrated Kurt Busch and car owner Roger Penske was far from cordial.


While neither resorted to yelling, their back-and-forth made it clear neither was too pleased with the other at that moment. But that was last week, during another long day on a short track.

"Roger and I are definitely on the same page, and I have the utmost respect for him," Busch said Friday. "In the heat of battle, sometimes things are said that aren't exactly the right thing to say. ... That's behind us."

Last week at Martinsville, Busch finished 18th after starting on the front row beside polesitter Jeff Gordon.

Coming off pit row after a stop, Busch bluntly told his crew on the radio that a "stupid adjustment" had been made and that there was no way to compete for the victory. Penske responded by telling him to do his best and that he would be fine. But that only led to a testy exchange between driver and owner.

"It's the most frustrating thing in the world to think that you think that we're better than we are," Busch said.

"If you don't blow yourself up, we'd be a lot better," Penske said, referring to the driver's mental approach and not the car. "So let's get serious here, OK? You understand?"

Busch's response: "10-4, dude. 10-4."

Gordon, who drives for Rick Hendrick, said he has never had such an exchange with a car owner.

"Can't say I ever called him dude. Just boss," Gordon said before qualifying second for Sunday's race. "Yes sir, boss. Whatever you say, boss. Yep. Gotcha. 10-4, boss."

Still, Gordon knows how frustrating things can get in the cockpit. And he has said things on the radio that he later wished he hadn't.

"Anything that I ever said I certainly intended for it to be constructive criticism, and I feel the same way toward me," Gordon said. "You got to know how to handle yourself in those moments on the radio because those kind of things can tear a team down too."

Busch insisted Friday that everything was good between he and Penske and that their conversations during this week leading up to Texas were normal, including the routine Tuesday meeting.

That doesn't erase the radio exchange from Martinsville, which is available on the Internet for anyone to hear.

"The radio, I've always thought has been a team tool that should be utilized just by the team," Busch said. "We don't get to hear what the coach says to his offensive and defensive coordinators in the NFL, what they say in baseball when they call to the bullpen."

But that's not going to change in NASCAR, and Busch realizes that.

"It's up to me do a better job of taking the right words and actions at the appropriate times, and that's back at the race shop when it's closed doors," he said.

Even though the last four Texas fall races were won by drivers who had also won the previous week in Atlanta, often with the same setups, Busch will drive a different car in Texas, which comes before the series takes Easter weekend off.

"The plan is to get as much information under our belt in the first few weeks of the season as we can," Busch said. "This car is just slightly different. We know what setup we ran in Atlanta and we want to just try a different car here at Texas to get our portfolio bigger."



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