Tuesday, May 10, 2011
What happened next, after the race was over, was Harvick's attempt to cash in his bully-boy threat, by physically punching Busch. Busch avoided the confrontation several times by simply driving away from Harvick. Finally Harvick managed to block Busch at the entrance to pit row, and jumped out of his car. There were a number of Harvick crew team members assembling as well--more or less a four to one punishment squad. As soon as Harvick cleared his car, Busch pushed the car aside with his own vehicle and drove away. As he was departing Harvick threw two punches into Busch's cockpit--presumably Busch was still helmeted and these hurt Harvick's hands more than Busch's head. The Harvick machine turned left and hit the pit row wall. No one was hurt. Harvick looked pretty silly. That's a good way for a bully to end up looking.
The fact is, Busch initiated nothing, Harvick everything. And Harvick seems to presume that if an opponent resists on the track, he will met out punishment with his fists later on. There is no reason for anyone to play by these NHL rules. Now, after the fact, various commentators are waxing purple on the terrible danger Busch engendered by pushing the Harvick car. This is pretty silly given that all the folks any where near the car are pit crew--guys who stand in traffic as a job and know how to get out of the way. Harvick's car wasn't going nearly as fast as cars entering the pits normally travel. And, more important--Harvick was using his car to pin Busch--to keep him from simply avoiding the confrontation, as he had been doing. In those circumstances, Busch did what he had to. He was under no obligation to fist-fight Harvick, or to take punches from Harvick and possibly Harvick's crew members (who later tried to fight with Busch's crew members).
The patter on the racing shows should not influence NASCAR officials on this matter. I guess we'll find out today. It was pretty laughable to hear Elliot Sadler last night chastising Busch--when Sadler drives for Harvick! Hopefully Busch will have some folks in his corner--folks who were sadly absent in last night's chatter. Busch does not deserve any penalties from NASCAR for protecting himself. And NASCAR should not let the racing "culture" devolve into professional hockey.
Update (5-14): Kevin Harvick's interview last night on Trackside (Speed Channel) pretty much confirmed my perception of him as stated above, although I wish his interlocutors had also followed up along my line of analysis (oh well, guess they just don't read this little blog). Harvick waxed about how Busch didn't want to fight, wasn't a fighter, etc. Well, so since when was a race driver supposed to be able to punch people? Busch is a terrific race driver--at that skill he's pretty much defeating Harvick and the rest of the field of competitors right now, which of course isn't to say that he wins all the time (except in Nationwide and Trucks). NASCAR is not professional hockey. Harvick is playing 8th Grade school bully, both now and at Darlington. Busch simply thwarted him. Hopefully, Harvick's attitude will just focus Kyle that much more--on winning on the track. Yesterday's truck race at Dover was a good example--Kyle just walked away from the field, Harvick included. But I thought Kyle's bows at the end were a little pro forma--that this whole incident has taken just a little of the joy of racing out of him. That's really a shame.