Race car drivers can spew any amount of venom over their team radio during the blur of competition and not damage relationships with their team, as long as they adhere to two rules, says former crew chief Ray Evernham.
"Don't get accusational. Don't get personal," said Evernham, who won three championships with driver Jeff Gordon.
"Kurt's crossed the line, It's the same line that you can cross in any relationship, really," said Evernham. "There's that respect thing. If you're just venting in the car that the car is not right, OK, but when you make it personal and accusational, that's when people get defensive.
"Kurt is a great guy and a talented driver but he has a history of doing that. Kurt's not a kid. Like his brother [Kyle], I think he has to look at his own emotions and know that if he's ever going to be a champion again, he's going to have to keep a handle on that, because what he does is actually nonproductive and it's happened more than once. But the bottom line is when a guy is yelling and screaming at you and making it really personal on the radio when tens of thousands of people are listening, you don't shake that stuff off."
Not only are tirades potentially damaging to relationships -- although Kurt Busch survived, calling owner Roger Penske "dude" while complaining about his car at Martinsville in 2009 -- they often prevent the reconciliation of the original mechanical issue that ignited a driver's temper, Evernham said.
"A driver can say a lot. I've had
The interplay goes both directions. Drivers, especially those with long-term relationships with a crew chief, must learn to pick their spots when offering input or criticizing a call.
"That comment alone, when he said it to me, I knew in the back of my mind he was full of sh--," Johnson said. "He was just frustrated. So I just kept my mouth shut and next stop we make a change, come out on the track, car was better. He was like, 'Hey, we found something.' That's just in that dynamic of him being frustrated, and he's tried a lot ... He'd be 'I don't have anything! You've got to figure it out!' and I'm like biting my tongue. The worst thing would be to push the button and blow up. All right, let him have that one. Nothing good will come of it. Next pit stop, we get the car better and I tell him that's the direction we need.
"There's these ups and downs throughout the whole race people might not pick up on. But we know each other so well, and he's worked very, very hard to understand when he's going out on that branch."
Evernham credited Kurt Busch's younger brother Kyle, for improving his behavior this season, controlling his emotions and "learning what it takes to become a champion."
"Those guys are out there, trying to do their best and when they're frustrated, things come out, but if you listen to Carl Edwards, he can complain and not make it personal," Evernham said. "Sometimes he stops and finishes his statement.
With a victory on Saturday at Richmond,
Kyle has amassed 21 wins in 231 races while Kurt has 22 in 373 starts. If championships are what really matters, Kurt still has the edge after winning for Roush Fenway in 2004. Kyle Busch has never finished higher than fifth in Sprint Cup points (2007). He is currently third.
Richard and Maurice Petty would assume the lead with 200 wins if the Vince DiMaggio principle was applied, but Maurice never won a Sprint Cup race.
Top remaining Sprint Cup drivers who are not under contract for 2012.
Memo to Martin Truex Jr.'s lawn guy: Do not break anymore sprinkler heads. The driver of the No. 56 Toyota basically fired his entire pit crew after a mid-race mistake cost him several positions at Richmond on Saturday and Michael Waltrip Racing supported its driver by naming a new front tire changer (Eric Maycroft), front tire carrier (Ricky Coleman), rear tire changer (Daniel Rankin) and rear tire carrier (Jake Brzozowski).
"We had a very good car at Richmond. It was the best car I've ever had there," Truex Jr. said in a team release. "In Richmond, it was hard not to say anything when our night ended the way it did. ... I appreciate the fact that MWR addressed the issue and we're moving on."