Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thankfully, Cooler Heads Prevail In Daytona Fireworks Display

By Jerry Bonkowski

I just love fireworks displays. Saturday, we got two shows for the price of one at Daytona International Speedway.

While the main fireworks display came after the race, the preliminary show wasn't half bad itself, when Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch tangled on the final turn of the final lap of the Coke Zero 400.

Like a pinball and Roman Candle both in one, Busch first bounced off Stewart, spun and bounced off the wall, bounced off Kasey Kahne and then off Joey Logano, with fireworks-like sparks flying everywhere from each point of contact.

It was great theatrics, causing the 100,000-plus fans at DIS, as well as several million watching on their TVs, to go "oooh" and "aaah" before they really ooohed and aaahed a few moments later during the racetrack's real and planned post-race fireworks extravaganza.

To his credit, Busch took the end of the race in stride. He and Stewart were both battling for the same piece of real estate, just like Busch has done so with numerous other drivers over the course of his career.

And when you do battle like that, especially when the younger Busch brother tried to block Stewart from getting a final run, something – and someone – was going to have to give, even if it wasn't by choice.

End result: Stewart got into the back of Busch's car and sent the No. 18 Toyota on one hell of a ride, while Stewart's No. 14 went on to victory lane for the second time this season.

While Stewart was making his way to victory lane, Busch didn't play the fool. He didn't make a spectacle of himself walking back to pit road, didn't chase after Stewart or angrily throw his helmet at him or call him out. Of course, with Tony probably outweighing Kyle by 70 pounds or more, Busch may have thought twice about putting up his dukes.

Sure, Busch wasn't happy when NASCAR officials forcibly took him by the arms and directed him to a track truck for a ride to the infield care center to get checked out.

The officials were actually doing Busch a favor, because he took a nasty hit first from the retaining wall, then from Kahne, whose car lifted Busch's up almost 45 degrees in the air – pushing it across the finish line, no less – and then when Logano couldn't seen through the resulting smoke and smashed broadside into Busch's driver's side door.

Busch then did the right thing by declining to be interviewed or talk about the incident afterward. A cooler head prevailed and that was the smartest thing Busch could have done. He's to be commended for that.

Stewart, as well, is to be commended. I can't recall him ever feeling so bad about a win. He actually was unhappy at how he earned the win.

"It's not the way I like to win a race," Stewart said afterward.

That's why Saturday night's race finish was one of the most enjoyable I've seen in a long time. It wasn't because of the race-ending multi-car wreck. Rather, it was how two of the sport's most fiery and tempestuous drivers both held their tongue, kept their cool and let the end result play out the way it did.

To me, that's true sportsmanship on both Busch's and Stewart's part, which we haven't always been able to say after other episodes in both of their respective racing careers, particularly on the Sprint Cup level.

Kyle sucked it up and Tony lamented about a finish he'd rather not have had play out the way it did. No one went charging after the other, especially at a place that has seen more than its shares of fisticuffs and brawls over the years. We weren't going to see a replay of the Allison-Yarborough tilt at Daytona following the 1979 Daytona 500, or even anything close to it.

Busch displayed perhaps some of the greatest restraint he has ever shown in his brief Cup career, and for that he's to be applauded. Whether you like him or not, he didn't pout, throw a tantrum or a punch.

Ditto for Stewart. He didn't rub it in Busch's face, he didn't claim Busch got what he deserved for trying to block, nor did Stewart intentionally go looking for Busch to apologize for what happened.

Rather, Tony let Kyle cool off, calm down and accept things at his own pace and in his own style. I'm sure they'll talk in the next day or two and everything will be forgiven and forgotten from both their viewpoints.

Honestly, no one was really to blame for how the Busch-Stewart wreck occurred. It was as close to a perfect example of a so-called "racing incident" as you'll see anywhere.

Saturday's pre-fireworks display was the perfect prelude for the main event. As Stewart and Busch have both said numerous times in their careers, that's racin.' No one should feel bad about it at all.

But damn, you have to admit it was a hell of a show on the track, just like the one in the skies that followed after the checkered flag fell.


  1. Kyle did the right thing by not talking to the media? I don't think so. To see how a professional handles the situation watch Carl Edwards interview after Talladega. Kyle still has much growing up to do.

  2. If you think you're going to blow up and make a fool of yourself because of anger and temper, the best thing is to take the high road and not say anything at all. While I respect your opinion, RickyBobby, Kyle did show the grown-up thing to do in my mind. Otherwise, people would be piling up on him for once again being immature, etc. Thanks for writing in! .... JB

  3. Yes, we would have liked to see an interview but Kyle showed a little more maturity by not talking to the press. Stewart's maturity is another surprise.

    But what I really liked was the good racing at the end. I want to see great driving and racing and I'm not so concerned about the 'emotional intelligence' of my favorite drivers.

  4. The right thing for Kyle to do would be to talk to the media. I would have far more respect for him if he would learn to be able to talk to the media when things don't go his way. Kyle new he screwed up and was 100% wrong before he ever hit the wall for the first time. The only thing he should be mad at is himself. He also should apologize to the rest of the field for causing the destruction of so many cars.

  5. I for one would like to see him at least think his sponsors and manufacturer and if he cant say anything without sounding like a spoiled chap then decline to comment about the wreck. A lot of people put a lot of money into that car and he should show some appreciation for them at the very least. Bottom line is he is a good driver, but when he leaves without acknowledging his fans car owner and sponsors he still looks like a spoiled brat that will take his ball and just go home without saying a thing if he strikes out.

  6. How about that "Car of Tomorrow?" It takes a licking, and keeps drivers alive and uninjured.

    Whatever its "problems," I can live with them if it keeps drivers like Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch healthy after horrific impacts.

  7. I'm not trying to be rude but "Stewart got into the back of Busch's car and sent him flying"? Were we watching the same race? If you see the replay Tony was driving in a straight line, and Kyle turned left. Stewart did not turn him.

  8. Kyle Petty (boy what a breath of fresh air over DW) put it best: Block me once, that's racing and that's fine, block me twice, you're going up into the wall.

    The initial block was fine, but the second one, he came right across the front of Smoke's car, after Stewart had already established his position. What the hell else did Kyle Busch expect was going to happen? That's the part of racing that Busch still has to learn; had he ceded the position, he most likely would have finished in second place and in great shape in the points standing. Instead, he winds up in 14th with a wrecked car.

    I get the whole "that's restrictor plate racing for you" sentiment, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.

    I'm with gary on the whole "Busch speaking to the media afterward" sentiment: Sponsors pay good money and as cheesy as it sounds, a little "the Interstate Batteries Toyota team did a great job today, but I don't want to comment until I see the tape and see what happened" soundbite would go a long way toward shedding the whole "spoiled kid who loves soaking in the cheers and mocking the fans with his bow when everything is going well but runs and hides when something goes bad" image Kyle Busch has made for himself.


  9. I'm pretty sure Kyle Busch's sponsors have figured out he's a driver, not a spokesman. As long as his car is on the screen, the eyeballs are on the ads. Granted, the ads may be dented and occasionally shredded, but they're being seen.

  10. I agree that his sponsors have had to make a choice as to weather they want to keep the money going to a team that gets booed every time he shows his face and cheers when you can no longer read what is on the car. But he could increase his image and the bang for the buck they spend by being more mature and showing good sportsmanship. In today's economy the better image you can put on your product, the more value your advertising dollar is and there will be more cuts to come in the near future I am sure. I for one would be doing everything I could to sell the whole package and increase my value not alienate people because I cant control my temper or just don't care what others think. He can't stay on top as just a driver forever without support from others when times are bad and times will be bad for him. There has never been a driver that I am aware of that has not gone through a slump in there career. I am definitely not a Kyle Bush fan but I give credit where it is due, as I said in the previous post he is a good driver but he could be so much more if he would show some maturity and not put the image out that he thinks the world should revolve around him. A quick look at Terrell Owens from the NFL will give you a good idea of what happens when it is all about you and not presenting yourself as the complete package and a team player when what you choose to do puts you in the public eye. Simply, to be one of the best you have to present yourself as the best.

  11. I'll give you the Terrell Owens thing. I haven't seen or really heard about him in a while. (not a big football fan, but I know the big names) Hopefully for Kyle when (not if) he hits that slump it makes him grow up a little so he can hang on to those sponsor dollars. There's been many burnouts in the sport before him, and will be more in the future. With his potential, talent, and skill it would be sad to include him in that group. Ultimately time will tell if a young punk that drives old school win at any cost can survive in today's NA$CAR.

  12. I guess the "maturity" of Kyle took a dive with the latest announcement that he thinks Tony dumped him, huh?

  13. Do I need to say more???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????


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