SONOMA, CA - JUNE 24: Kurt Busch, driver of the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, stands with Patricia Driscoll during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway on June 24, 2011 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
When TNT cut to a shot of Kurt Busch during the national anthem on Sunday, he was standing with a beautiful blonde woman who was not his wife.
All of a sudden, dozens of ever-observant NASCAR fans – many of whom are just as interested in the drivers' off-track lives as they are in their on-track pursuits – lit up Twitter and Facebook.
What happened to Eva Busch?
The truth is, those in the NASCAR garage – including all of the media – have known for months that Kurt Busch was no longer with his wife.
But how many stories have been written about it? How many questions has Busch been asked about it?
That would be a grand total of: Zero.
It's remarkable, if you think about it. The NASCAR media, often derided by those who work in the sport as being too negative, invasive into the drivers' personal lives and having tabloid tendencies, chose not to report on Busch's marital issues.
Reporters didn't coordinate with one another or decide as a group not to address the topic, but individually determined not to go there. And that includes me.
This isn't the first time this has happened. The demise of Michael Waltrip's marriage to former wife Buffy was well known among the media – but few words about it ever appeared in print until Waltrip himself addressed the topic in his recent autobiography.
Like many of the NASCAR wives – some of whom have their own Twitter accounts and fan followings – Buffy Waltrip had a high profile in the media and even appeared in television commercials with her then-husband. Despite that very public image, the media didn't report on the breakup until years later.
In other sports, such a public figure's divorce would be treated as a news story. If Busch was an NFL star, for example, this would have come out months ago.
Not in NASCAR, though. And the obvious question is: Why not?
I'm not sure, to be honest. After all, I've known about Busch's marital problems, too – and didn't ask him about it nor write about it until now. And I may have never addressed the topic had Busch not been so public with his new flame by bringing her onto pit road, where the whole NASCAR world – along with the TV cameras – can see what's happening.
The best explanation I can give is, personally, I don't have the stomach it takes to dig into someone's relationship and write a story about it. Even as fans on Twitter questioned Eva Busch's absence and the lack of a wedding ring on Kurt Busch's finger throughout the last few months, I basically turned a blind eye to the story.
I justified it by telling myself, "Well, it doesn't affect him on the track." But given Busch's vitriolic tirades on the team radio this spring – which were widely reported on – perhaps it did. It's at least a question that could have been asked; it wasn't, though.
The NASCAR media is, on the whole, a sharp group of people who are skilled at breaking news, writing commentaries and covering every aspect of the sport.
And as many in the industry know, the racing beat corps isn't afraid of writing the truth – even if it may be harsh at times. So it's not as if all the writers said to themselves, "Let's protect Kurt Busch's personal life."
The irony to all this is Busch is one of the drivers who most often clashes with the media. Off camera, he's been known to break away from his public relations face and unleash angry outbursts at reporters.
Busch has even said, repeatedly, that the NASCAR media writes too much "People magazine" material.
Yet when there was some People-worthy news about Busch himself, it was never made public until TNT showed Busch and Patricia Driscoll together on camera.
Some people might view the lack of Busch news until now as reporters failing to do their jobs. Whether that's the case or not, the lack of coverage in this situation should send a message to those inside NASCAR: The media who covers the sport on a day-to-day basis is not as cutthroat as you think.
In an age when media outlets compete for clicks and when accomplishments can often be measured in page views more than quality writing, the decision not to report on Busch's personal life says a lot about the mindset of those who cover NASCAR.