An Altering Game: Five Questions for Atlanta

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images for NASCAR
They say people never change. Every mistake and fumble they’ve ever made, laced in their DNA, wired to reoccur down the road. Trust is broken, hearts are shattered, and all that is left is the ghost of who you thought they were long ago.

Over time, this phrase has been disproved to me. I’ve forgiven friends, fallen back in love with someone, and locked all the apparitions away. Although the backstabbing continued and heartbreak returned, it taught me a lesson: there are times to give people chances, and then there are times to damage their belongings with a baseball bat.

Fortunately, Kurt Busch is with the former.

Through ups and downs, this past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has mentally erased his mistakes and moved on. The talent he’s shown in sub-par equipment convinced everyone else to forget, too.

So many people have told me Busch doesn’t deserve this opportunity at Stewart-Haas Racing, that he doesn’t appreciate what he has worked with over the years. I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. If you look close enough, you’ll understand why.

It’s a combination of personal realization and an outside influence. I’ve already talked about changing himself, but light must be shed on another aspect: his girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll. She’s the president of the Armed Forces Foundation, an organization that has Busch delving into work with injured troops and military families. Working with those who have been in war is eye-opening, and that may have had an affect on him.

Also, he is now a “step-dad” to Driscoll’s son, Houston. Busch even has a special firesuit made for the kid, and their bond is strong. Parenthood is an altering game, even if you aren’t a fulltime player, so to speak.

A boyfriend, father and compassionate person is what Kurt Busch has become. Doesn’t that in itself earn him a spot on a team with championship-caliber equipment?

This weekend takes us to Atlanta Motor Speedway, another night race that is sure to cause more drama. Aside from post-Bristol drama with Kasey Kahne, I talk about silly season, glass bones and more. Five questions, five answers, and five rants from yours truly.

Are you keeping up with the silly season drama? I’m having a difficult time keeping up with the 2014 news (blame a busy senior year of high school, not me), but here’s what I know: Kurt Busch is going to Stewart-Haas Racing, AJ Allmendinger will drive for JTG Daugherty Racing, Justin Allgaier is in at Harry Scott’s “Phoenix Racing” (name is TBA), Brian Vickers will run for Michael Waltrip Racing full-time, and Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Newman and Bobby Labonte are all scrambling for rides. If I’m forgetting anyone, don’t be surprised; it‘s getting crazy out there. Hopefully you’re keeping tabs on who’s going where, and that’s only on the NASCAR Cup Series side.

Why is everyone angry at Kasey Kahne? Bristol is known for its tempers, and many fuses were lit after Saturday night. What wasn’t expected was the outrage from fans towards soft-spoken Kahne. As he and Kenseth checked off the laps, it was apparent that the No. 20 wasn’t giving up the vital high side, and aggressiveness would be Kahne’s key to the win. That forceful bump and grind never happened, and the No. 5 came in No. 2. Fans are upset because of how clean Kahne raced. Well, that was the best thing to do; if he had attempted to wreck Kenseth, then both of them would’ve been taken out. Racing smart gets you an intact racecar and more points. I’m not sure why people are suddenly outraged by this. Kahne has always raced clean, and he is definitely respected throughout the garage for it. That may be something fans need to try and understand.

How will next year’s Rookie of the Year battle look? Strong rumors are placing Kyle Larson in the No. 42 for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing next year, placing him under rookie status. This would pin him against Austin Dillon, who’s expected to run for Richard Childress Racing, and Allgaier as I mentioned before. That sounds like a heavyweight battle: Sprint car ace/stock car novice vs. past NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champ vs. NASCAR Nationwide Series veteran. Let’s get ready to rumble, folks. This will be a fight to watch.

Racers have glass bones? Ever since Tony Stewart broke his leg in a Sprint car crash earlier this month, it seems like injuries have been abundant. In this past week, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin both suffered hand injuries from wrecks at Bristol, and Bobby Labonte broke three ribs in a bicycling accident. Hamlin’s back injury is still making headlines, and don’t forget about Michael Annett’s bruised sternum from February. These injuries are scary, but I see it as a reminder than these drivers aren’t invincible, as I discussed last week. Fans need to remember that, because we all forget their mortality every once in a while.

When is a second chance well-deserved? Kurt Busch is the quintessential Comeback Kid. Some say his second chance came at Penske Racing after being fired from Roush-Fenway Racing back in the early 2000s, but I see his entire journey up until his dismissal from Penske as the first half. A championship, a mistake and a temper all swirled together to kick him out of that seat. Phoenix Racing was a springboard for heading to Furniture Row Racing, where Busch re-evaluated himself. The result was a new man, a new driver, and that’s what gives him another chance with SHR. His dedication to the sport and the chance to change shows the true side of Kurt Busch. That side deserves this next chance.
An Altering Game: Five Questions for Atlanta An Altering Game: Five Questions for Atlanta Reviewed by Anonymous on Friday, August 30, 2013 Rating: 5