[media-credit name=”Barry Albert” align=”alignright” width=”255″][/media-credit]Before Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch starting ripping each other and dominating the headlines, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch were making headlines by ripping their teams. Changes have been made to both the Truex Jr. and Busch teams over the last two weeks, after both drivers appeared to have had enough with what was taking place.
For Truex Jr. things came to a head two weeks ago in Richmond when he again had a car capable of contending for a top 10 finish but wouldn’t be around at the finish. It was a continuing trend for the No. 56 NAPA team from Michael Waltrip Racing, strong early but sputter to the finish. At Richmond the culprit was a loose wheel after Truex Jr. drove to the lead for a total of 12 circuits.
That’s when things started to go wrong as the loose wheel lead to an unscheduled pit stop and soon they were multiple laps down. In the end they would finish 27th after Truex Jr. blew up on the radio telling his team “You’re all f—— fired. Every goddamn one of ya!” A few days following the race MWR did indeed fire pit crew members on the 56 team: front and rear tire changers and carriers.
Said Truex Jr. last week, “The last five weeks have been very tough on this NAPA team. We’ve run well and have very little to show for it. But in Richmond, it was hard not to say anything when our night ended the way it did. NASCAR is an emotional sport. We go from taking the lead and me screaming, ‘Hell yea!’ on the radio to having a loose wheel and going several laps down. I got pretty upset.”
Truex Jr. continued by saying when things are going wrong changes need to be made, even the driver should he not be doing his part. For Truex Jr., he says he wants to win more than anything in the world and continually having problems is what lead to his outburst.
And while Truex Jr.’s fit behind the wheel might have been new, the same can’t be said for Penske Racing’s Kurt Busch. Ever since the season opening Speedweeks and Daytona 500, nothing has gone right for the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil team. The won two of the three races they were entered in but since leaving Florida it’s been downhill and fast for the team.
Busch has repeatedly blown up on his radio, calling out his team for their troubles. They’ve dropped like rocks through the point standings going from first to currently sitting eighth heading into Dover.
At Richmond Busch let off more profanity laced communication to his team, of the most memorable, “We look like a monkey f—— a football. The f—– Penske cars are a f——- joke.” Busch then turned his attention to Penske technical director Tom German and laced him with unpleasant thoughts.
Before Darlington, Busch said he felt that ranting over the radio helped. While many others in and around the sport have stated in the past they don’t believe in handing team business over the radio, for Truex Jr. and Busch it ended up being a benefit.
Others believe in taking care of business behind closed doors. No reason to spread it around the media and make things worse. Even drivers who are having issues with other drivers sometimes refused to speak about it in public, instead choosing to make a phone call or send a text message.
Blowing up over the radio is becoming a popular and now effective way of getting what you want. Truex Jr. and Busch never heard about how they shouldn’t have publicly insulted their crew members, who might have already felt bad. Instead, they were noted as having some pull in their respective organizations.
Truex Jr. with the new crew and for Busch, it was announced earlier this week that German was going to be leaving Penske to attend the Sloan School of Management at MIT. Whether or not it was solely because of Busch’s rant is up for debate, but the timing is certainly ironic, which Busch not only noted Friday at Dover but said that “my voice has been heard through the Penske organization.”
It is not however, the first time a driver has been heard loud and clear. Last year in the Nationwide Series when driving for his own team, it almost became a weekly occurrence for Kevin Harvick to be upset with his pit crew, even calling them idiots during a race he would eventually win.
After California late last year he told them he was terrified to come down pit road and that if they couldn’t stand the pressure they needed to find something else to do. Then again, Harvick was battling the same problems in the Cup Series at the time and after saying his team wasn’t gaining him positions on pit road team owner Richard Childress swap his pit crew with teammate Clint Bowyer’s.
While his crew members weren’t swapped out or fired, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made sure they knew how he felt once saying, “If the wheels come off and I hit the wall real hard, I get to whack every damn one of you with a hammer.”
Of course as Truex Jr. said, this is an emotional sport and on any given weekend 43 driver frequencies can seem better suited for Comedy Central then victory lane. Every individual handles adversity and pressure situations differently. Some can control their tempers and have high tolerance levels.
Truex Jr. and Busch finally crossed theirs and repercussions were felt. Fortunately for both the wanted results may now be just around the corner. Sometimes, making your problems public works out well and Truex Jr. and Busch might have just opened the flood gates for more drivers to start ranting, raving and calling for and getting changes from the driver’s seat.