Elder Busch losing cool, team's respect

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- There's little doubt Roger Penske made the right choice in skipping the NASCAR race at Richmond, a decision that spared him from the R-rated rant driver Kurt Busch launched against his race team.


Angry because his car wasn't competitive, Busch railed against his crew during the early portion of Saturday's race, pointedly blaming Penske Racing's shortcomings on technical director Tom German over a radio frequency available to the public. That was just his warmup act.

When Busch ran into Ryan Newman's spinning race car, he delivered an expletive-laden tirade that paled beside the dozens of rants the driver has unleashed over the years.

It might have been amusing if it weren't so downright abusive to a team that desperately needs Busch to lead the charge.

Penske has never won a championship at NASCAR's highest level, and he's yet to assemble a driver lineup capable of consistently challenging top teams. There was promise at points last year when Penske had five full-time teams -- three in Sprint Cup and two in Nationwide -- but a lack of sponsorship cost Sam Hornish Jr. his Cup ride and knocked Justin Allgaier from his Nationwide seat.

Now Penske is down to just Busch and Brad Keselowski in NASCAR's top series. The program is aided by manufacturer Dodge, but Penske is its only substantial client, which puts everyone involved at a disadvantage.

That includes Busch, a former series champion looking for another run at the title. He wants cars that can win every week, but instead he must sit back and watch little brother Kyle make all the trips to Victory Lane while driving a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

That alone could drive Busch mad. After all, Kyle's win at Richmond was the 21st of his career -- just one behind the 22 victories Kurt's collected with four more years of experience.

Animosity or jealousy is too easy an excuse for Kurt's abysmal behavior. It's reached a point now that Penske must wonder what exactly Busch can accomplish when his temper is so easily triggered. There's no way he can a win a championship this way. If his crew hasn't quit on him yet, it won't take many more rants before it loses all desire to exert any effort for the driver.

Busch does deserve credit for grinding out finishes far better than what his equipment should achieve. He still managed to finish 22nd at Richmond, leaving him sixth in the standings and a long way from out of contention.

If Penske doesn't step in soon, though, it won't matter.