The last time that a driver was suspended from race events was Kurt's brother Kyle last November when he was parked at Texas for taking dangerous retaliatory action against Ron Hornaday Jr in a Friday evening Truck Series race. The last time a driver received a suspension for actions not
on the race track was 2003, when Jimmy Spencer was suspended for trying to hit a driver through a car window on pit lane: ironically, the driver on the receiving end that time was none other than Kurt Busch.
Undoubtedly, NASCAR's quick and severe response to Busch's Saturday night comments is the culmination of a year's worth of controversial temper-prone behaviour by Busch, a former Sprint Cup champion. At the end of the 2011 season Busch lost his temper with Jerry Punch in post-race interviews and was duly fined $50,000 by the series and ultimately lost his place in the Penske Racing team.
The Darlington incident last month which involved a confrontation between his crew and that of Ryan Newman's team also netted a $50,000 fine and got him placed on probation through to July 25, and it's because Busch's latest comments came while still on that probation - and seemingly also directly mocking the probation sanction as he did so - that NASCAR upped the ante with the penalty.
"It was something that we considered very carefully before come to decision like this," confirmed NASCAR's spokesman Kerry Tharp. "There are many factors that we consider when coming to a decision like this."
For his part, Kurt Busch said in a statement released by his Cup team: "I accept NASCAR's decision. I put them in a box, they had to take action and it's my fault for putting them in this position. I apologize for the comments I made to Bob Pockrass."
The official NASCAR notice said that "NASCAR has suspended driver Kurt Busch until June 13 of this year and extended his NASCAR probation until Dec. 31 for his actions following the NASCAR Nationwide Series race June 2 at Dover International Speedway."
It added: "Kurt Busch violated Section 12-1 (Actions detrimental to stock car racing; violation of probation; verbal abuse to a media member) of the 2012 NASCAR Rule Book. Kurt Busch had previously been placed on NASCAR probation May 15 for his actions during the May 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Darlington Raceway. That probation was originally scheduled to end July 25 but has now been extended through the end of this year."
While there may have been general surprise from the media and from fans about the suspension, few questioned that it was a long time in coming one way or another.
"Kurt Busch's suspension is long overdue, and that is coming from someone who learned his lesson after sitting out a race for punching him a few years ago," said Jimmy Spencer, the former Cup driver parked in 2003 for trying to hit Busch. "Kurt has been given plenty of chances to right his wrongs and put himself back on the right path, but he has failed to take advantage of any of those opportunities.
"NASCAR had to do something to restore a sense of respect toward the sport on Kurt's behalf because he seems to consistently flaunt his disrespect for everything and everyone in this sport," added Spencer. "Maybe sitting out and watching the race from the pit box or his couch will wake him up to how great he really has it."