Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
On Sunday in Richmond Kurt Busch came full circle in some regards when he won his first race of the 2015 season. The win not only puts him in a prime spot to make the chase but it also makes the beginning of the season seem even further behind him. It was the beginning of the 2015 season in which Busch was embroiled in a domestic abuse case with his ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. That case eventually led to NASCAR suspending him; he would go onto miss the first three races of the season.
Since returning to the track Busch has been playing catchup with the rest of the field and he has been doing it well. Busch has been running well and many figured that it was only a matter of time before he won a race.
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Busch’s first win of the season almost came in his second start of the season at the Auto Club Speedway. Busch was leading (and pulling away) as the laps were winding down before a late caution foiled his chances. Following that race the NASCAR Universe was out in full force condemning NASCAR for “fixing” the race and not wanting Busch to win.
Now keep in mind that this is the same NASCAR that suspended Busch a month earlier and then reinstated him back into the sport. You can argue that criminal charges were not pressed (which they weren’t) but there was enough evidence for a judge to grant an order of protection after hearing both sides of the story. However, after taking it all into consideration and after it was announced that he wouldn’t be charged with a crime, NASCAR let Busch come back to the sport. Why would NASCAR allow Busch to come back to the sport if they didn’t want him there?
The fix was supposedly in on Busch a few weeks later in Bristol when he was once again leading in the closing laps of the race and pulling away from the field. This time there was a series of late cautions and once again Busch was not able to recovery. At this point the NASCAR Universe was certain that NASCAR was screwing Busch. Twice in four races Busch is leading at the end and cautions mess things up?
Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
That brings us to Sunday in Richmond. As the laps were winding down in the Toyota Owners 400 it was once again Busch that was leading after dominating the majority of the race. Late in the race the cautions came once again but this time around it didn’t matter because Busch had too strong of a car. In the final laps Kevin Harvick was catching Busch but he would have needed another caution to even have a shot and even then Busch still might have won.
So wait, how did Busch win if NASCAR didn’t want him to win? Was Busch’s car so good on Sunday that no matter what NASCAR did they just couldn’t stop him from winning? Did Gene Haas finally pay off NASCAR so they would let his boy win? Were Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth (the drivers who won the other races that Busch was close to winning) ahead of Busch on NASCAR’s pecking order and since they had wins it was now okay for Busch to win. Was Kevin Harvick supposed to win but he stuck it to the man and purposely didn’t run down Busch at the end of the race to allow his teammate to get a win and get into the chase?
Or maybe, just maybe it was none of those things because NASCAR doesn’t have someone sitting in an ivory tower deciding who is going to win each week.
Sometimes in sports things don’t go your way. In the NFL pass interference calls can cripple a defense and provide life for an offense and in the NBA late fouls can sometimes result in the loss of key players. Sometimes in NASCAR cautions fall and it hurts people (usually the leader) and sometimes it helps people (usually the rest of the field and the first person down a lap). The late cautions killed Keselowski and the No. 2 team at Richmond. Keselowski was down a cylinder but would have cruised to a top-five finish had the race stayed green, instead the restarts hurt and he finished outside of the top-15.
You can argue that NASCAR has thrown debris cautions in the past to tighten up the field on a late restart or to breakup a boring race but to allude that they are handpicking winners is simply ridiculous. Why would it have not been okay for Busch to win last month but now all of a sudden it’s okay for him to win? It just doesn’t add up, much like NASCAR fixing races just doesn’t add up.