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Talent vs. tolerance: Has Kurt Busch run out of chances?

Inside Motorsports

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Wednesday, Jun. 06, 2012

James Finch said he has a “come to Jesus” meeting planned with driver Kurt Busch on Tuesday at which time Busch’s future with Phoenix Racing will be discussed.

Regardless of the outcome, Busch’s future as a top driver in NASCAR is precariously close to an end.

Sadly, that has nothing to do with his talent.

Like him or not, Busch always has been among the most talented Cup drivers since being brought on board by then-Roush Racing in 2000.

Talent gets you very far in NASCAR, but it is not the only thing required of the series’ biggest stars.

In every professional sport, there are rules of conduct that transcend the courts and fields on which the sports are played. NASCAR is no different.

In fact, in some ways NASCAR can be more tolerant of its stars. No other sport I know of has actively promoted the idea of allowing its participants to “police themselves” which NASCAR did with its “Boys, have at it” mantra.

Still, in a sport dominated by its reliance upon corporate sponsors, there are rules of behavior and a level of professional conduct expected of its participants.

Many times during his career, Busch has flaunted those rules. Depending upon who the actions were directed at, sometimes he was cheered, sometimes booed.

Last year, after a profanity-laced tirade toward pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch was caught on video at the season finale at Homestead, Fla., he paid the ultimate price – he lost his ride with a top-notch organization, Penske Racing.

Entering this season, Busch said all of the right things. He was going have more fun; focus on getting the most out of each opportunity; enjoy the sport more than ever.

Actually doing them has turned out to be a problem.

The general consensus this year has been if Busch stayed out of trouble, showed he still had the talent to compete in Cup, a top ride would come his way.

For whatever reason, he has failed again.

Busch has been suspended until June 13 by NASCAR for verbal abuse of a media member following the Nationwide race Saturday at Dover, Del. His list of run-ins with NASCAR has grown this season rather than contracted.

Most people are given the opportunity for a second chance. Busch got his.

Third, fourth and fifth chances are far more rare – and far more rare in NASCAR.

Even if Busch remains out of the limelight the rest of the season, it might not matter if a second chance turns out to be his last.

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