NASCAR fines Kurt Busch $50,000 for poor behavior

NASCAR fined Kurt Busch $50,000 on Friday for his poor behavior

during the Sprint Cup finale last weekend at Homestead-Miami

Speedway.

NASCAR cited both an obscene gesture Busch made inside his car

and him being verbally abusive to a reporter in fining the 2004 Cup

champion.

”Kurt Busch showed disrespect toward a media member, an

incident that followed similar inappropriate media confrontations

earlier in the season,” NASCAR said in a statement announcing the

penalty.

Busch had a transmission problem early in Sunday’s race that

sent his Penske Racing Dodge to the garage. His in-car camera

caught him making an obscene gesture during that time.

While his team made repairs, Busch waited to be interviewed by

an ESPN reporter, and a fan videotaped Busch being verbally abusive

while waiting to go live.

That video was posted on YouTube, and both Penske officials and

Busch have apologized in separate statements for his behavior.

”Unfortunately, our result in the season-ending race at

Homestead on Sunday was not what we had hoped for as a team,” he

said. ”In my frustration with the loss of my transmission early in

the race, I let my emotions get the better of me. I regret having

done this and apologize to the sponsors of Penske Racing, to

NASCAR, its fans, to the media and in particular, Dr. Jerry

Punch.”

Penske officials said earlier this week that Busch’s

”inappropriate actions” were being reviewed internally.

”These actions do not represent Penske Racing and are

inconsistent with the company’s standards for behavior, respect for

others and professionalism,” the team said in a statement.

The penalty comes just days after Busch crew chief Steve

Addington quit the team, and three weeks to the day that Busch’s

younger brother, Kyle, intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr. under

caution in a Truck Series race.

NASCAR suspended Kyle Busch for the remainder of the weekend at

Texas – he was entered in both the Nationwide and Cup events – and

fined him $50,000 for the Hornaday wreck. He then spent the next

week fighting to keep his seat with Joe Gibbs Racing because

sponsor M&M’s was embarrassed by his actions.

He lost all composure during a race at Richmond in May, when he

berated his team and Penske management over his in-car radio.

Busch’s sponsor Shell/Pennzoil said in a statement it was

disappointed with the driver.

”Shell and Pennzoil are disappointed with recent actions by

driver, Kurt Busch, at the final race of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup

Series race season,” the company said in a statement. ”His

actions are in no way consistent with the way we want our brands

represented and we have expressed our disappointment and concerns

directly to Penske Racing.”

At the same track in September, he had an angry post-race

confrontation on pit road with another reporter, then continued the

argument before his formal news conference. He also ripped apart

another reporter’s papers the same evening.

Busch was a two-time winner this season and opened the Chase for

the Sprint Cup championship confident he could be the one to

dethrone five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson – his

nemesis. Although he beat Johnson at Dover in the third Chase race,

he faded as rumors spread Addington was bolting.

Busch wrecked at Talladega, ran out of gas while leading at

Phoenix and had the transmission problem at Homestead. He ended the

season 11th in the final standings. Kyle Busch, who opened the

Chase tied for the top seed, finished 12th. Neither Busch brother

will be part of the formal ceremony at next week’s banquet in Las

Vegas – their hometown.

It’s not clear what action, if any, team owner Roger Penske will

take against Kurt Busch. He’s remained largely silent when Busch

has acted out in the past, but the emergence of teammate Brad

Keselowski has given Penske reason not to tolerate Busch’s behavior

any longer.

Keselowski, in his second Cup season, won three races this

season and finished fifth in the final standings. He’s also become

a fan favorite for his outspokenness – candor that proved last week

can get him in trouble: Keselowski was fined $25,000 by NASCAR for

comments critical of electronic fuel injection.