Craig Murto: Hard racing results in hurt feelings

Craig Murto

The final lap of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was good, hard racing, but it was the fight on pit road after the race that received all the media attention.

Martin Truex Jr. passed the ailing car of Brad Keselowski for the lead on the final lap. Keselowski tried to defend, though his car wasn’t completely up to speed. As Joey Logano and Kyle Busch approached Keselowski’s car, Busch veered to the left and made contact with Logano as the two drove underneath Keselowski. Logano drove hard into Turn 3, his car got loose and he had to chase it up the track. He made contact with Busch, sending Busch spinning down pit road.

Nothing on the final lap appeared intentional. It was all just good, hard racing. Truex went on to win, becoming the first driver to sweep all three stages of a Cup race under the new system. Keselowski and Logano held on for top-five finishes. Busch, unfortunately, went from a top five to 22nd. And he was not happy.

Video shows Busch sucker punch Logano on pit road, just before a swarm of crew members wrestle him to the ground. When security and officials finally break up the scuffle, Busch emerged bloodied above his right eye, and got treatment in the infield care center.

Needless to say, both drivers had different views. Logano stated it was all hard racing, and described the incident as it appeared; his car got loose and he contacted Busch as he tried to correct. Busch said he was “dumped,” and felt that he was intentionally wrecked as retaliation for the contact Busch initiated on the backstretch.

Fans are divided, based upon their loyalties. Some even blamed Keselowski for blocking. Perhaps if this happened in the middle of the race, some of the fans’ criticism would hold merit. But this was the final lap – the race to the finish – and drivers do what they have to do to get the best finish possible.

Keselowski’s job was to make his car difficult to pass. Busch’s job was to not allow himself to get pinned behind Keselowski’s ailing machine. Logano’s job was to regain his position after Busch slammed into him on the backstretch. All of these drivers were performing the jobs they were hired to do.

Busch didn’t intend to nearly wreck Logano on the backstretch; he only intended not to allow himself to get pinned behind Keselowski. Logan didn’t intend to get loose in the corner and chase his car up the track; he was driving hard to maintain his position.

Nobody did anything wrong on the racetrack. But off the track was a different story.

Hopefully Kyle Busch will get a grip on his emotions this week. He vowed that the incident is not over, bringing back memories of Matt Kenseth dumping Logano at Martinsville a number of seasons ago. That would be a true shame, as it not only will cause another pit road brawl, but it surely will get Busch suspended, just as it did Kenseth.

And NASCAR needs to penalize crew members who jump into fights among drivers. It’s natural that they want to have their driver’s back, but unless somebody throws a punch at them, their only involvement should be to pull their driver away from the fight, not get in the middle of it.

The biggest shame of it is that the fight overshadowed the hard racing and dramatic last-lap pass for the win. It was Truex’s day, the story should have been his dominance and his last-lap pass for the win.

Sebastien Bourdais dominated the IndyCar St. Petersburg (Florida) Grand Prix. Starting last on the grid, he won the race by more than 10 seconds. It was nice to see the Dale Coyne Racing team in Victory Lane, as they do not have the resources of powerhouse teams such as Penske or Ganassi.

It’s Bike Week in Daytona, Florida, and Supercross did its part to entertain the crowds. Local racer Adam Cianciarulo rode his Kawaski to the 250 win. It was a good ride, and his fourth win in 10 starts. Eli Tomac made it a Kawaski sweep by winning to 450 event, but first he had to get around the Honda of Jeremy Martin, who led half the race in his 450 class debut.

American Flat Track riders will compete at Daytona, and you can see the event live at 2 p.m. today on www.fanschoice.tv.

The final lap of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was good, hard racing, but it was the fight on pit road after the race that received all the media attention.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.