Archive for Friday, August 29, 2003

Sponsor unhappy with Busch

Driver scolded for scrape with Spencer

August 29, 2003

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— Kurt Busch was lectured by his sponsor for his role in an argument that led Jimmy Spencer to punch him in the face, and Newell Rubbermaid plans a mentoring program to help its young driver with his behavior.

Newell Rubbermaid representatives met with car owner Jack Roush and Busch to express displeasure with the 25-year-old driver for his words and actions in his latest scrape with Spencer.

"We will be taking an active role with Roush Racing in helping Kurt get guidance and working closely in developing a mentoring program," Eric Pinkham, director of marketing for Newell Rubbermaid, said.

Pinkham said the program would consist of media training, regularly scheduled meetings between Busch and his Roush Racing teammates and other veteran competitors so Busch "can learn from their years of racing experience, both on and off the track."

Pinkham called Busch a phenomenal driver and said that Newell Rubbermaid would continue to support the No. 97 Ford.

Busch has become NASCAR's newest villain since Spencer punched him in the face two weeks ago after a race in Michigan. The two have a long-running feud and bumped earlier on the track.

It was later revealed, through tapes of radio chatter between Busch and his crew, that Busch intentionally tried to flatten Spencer's bumper during the race.

In the garage after, the in-car camera showed that Busch egged Spencer on, perhaps provoking Spencer to punch him as Busch sat inside the car. Busch sustained a bloodied nose and chipped tooth and was placed on probation for the rest of the year.

Spencer was suspended from last week's race at Bristol Motor Speedway -- which Busch won -- and was fined $25,000 and also placed on probation.

Busch was heartily booed at Bristol and was clearly drained by the reception he had received since the Spencer punch and the negative attention it had brought him.

He again apologized Thursday and vowed not to embarrass his sponsor.

Newell Rubbermaid is the second sponsor to sanction its driver after bad behavior. Home Depot fined Tony Stewart $50,000 last year after he punched a photographer.

Rubbermaid and Sharpie have been Busch's primary sponsors since his rookie year in 2001. He has won eight races for them and is sixth in the Winston Cup points standings.

Roush said his organization immediately would begin working with Busch -- for the second time. Busch was sent to training seminars last winter after a handful of on-track and off-track outbursts.

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