The Twitter world is abuzz today about the viral video of Kurt Busch cursing at respected ESPN pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch as the driver waited to be interviewed during Sunday's NASCAR race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In the video, Busch reacts angrily to Punch's presence and yells about having to wait to answer questions. Punch then walks away and cancels the interview.
The whole situation is very surprising to me – but not for the reasons you think.
Personally, based on my experiences trying to interview Busch, this kind of behavior from him is not unusual at all. In fact, I would dare say the vast majority of NASCAR media regulars have had at least one run-in with Busch similar to the one in the video.
But typically, reporters simply grumble to one another when such incidents occur. Unless a driver crosses the line – as Busch did when he threatened NASCAR.com reporter Joe Menzer after a race in September – stories about media/driver altercations typically aren't written.
When I've mentioned incidents like this one via Twitter in the past, some fans have sided with Busch and accused me of being the instigator or simply whining.
Fans will respond with comments like, "Well, then stop badgering the drivers when they're upset!" or "Come up with better questions for the drivers!"
Apparently, now that fans have seen Busch in action for themselves, it's come as a shock. It shouldn't, though.
Busch shouldn't be fined or punished for his behavior toward Punch, because this is par for the course. If he hasn't been punished for any of the dozens of times it's happened before, why now?
UPDATE: Penske Racing officials issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon, apologizing for Busch's actions:
Penske Racing extends its apologies to Dr. Jerry Punch, our media partners and our sponsors and fans for Kurt Busch's inappropriate actions in Homestead on Sunday. These actions do not represent Penske Racing and are inconsistent with the company's standards for behavior, respect for others and professionalism. This matter is being reviewed internally with no further comment at this time.
UPDATE 2: Kurt Busch has issued the following statement:
Unfortunately, our result in the season-ending race at Homestead on Sunday was not what we had hoped for as a team. 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.