Stewart-Busch Altercation Ignites 2008 NASCAR Season Fireworks

Charlotte, NC – Where are Michael Buffer and Mills Lane when you need them?

The two boxing legends should have been in the NASCAR Sprint Cup hauler Friday night as Tony ?The Terrible? Stewart and Kurt ?Chainsaw? Busch allegedly tangled in the main event with Stewart scoring a one-punch TKO (technical knockout). Evidently, all that was missing were the strains of ring announcer Buffer shouting out ?Let?s get ready to rumble? and referee Lane telling the combatants ?Let?s get it on!?

What a great way to open the 2008 NASCAR season.

While nobody is talking ? especially NASCAR officials John Darby, Robin Pemberton and Jim Hunter ? who all were reportedly present when the bout came to a quick conclusion, multiple sources are confirming the altercation occurred.

In case you missed it, Stewart and Busch made contact in the late stages of Friday?s final practice for the Bud Shootout with Busch?s car sustaining heavy damage after it impacted the Daytona International Speedway backstretch wall. Busch was able to right his mount and steamed around to pit road where he repeatedly slammed into Stewart?s car in retaliation. Both drivers were then called to the hauler where the bare-knuckle bout ensued.

Afterward, Hunter played coy with the media refusing to comment about anything that transpired in the meeting only stating both drivers would return for a second session Saturday morning. Even after several sources confirmed the altercation, NASCAR?s only comment was delivered by Ramsey Poston who stated ?What transpires in the NASCAR hauler remains in the hauler.?

How Vegas is that? Considering Las Vegas regards itself as the boxing capitol of the world, I guess the comment was appropriate even if it did little to clarify the situation.

This isn?t the first time Stewart and Busch have tangled. The pair crashed together during last year?s Daytona 500 and another incident at Dover in June got Busch put on probation after he nearly crashed into Stewart?s car and crew on pit road. Evidently, Stewart had had enough after the second pit road incident Friday night and let his fists do the talking.

While we don?t condone fighting or physical confrontation of any kind, we also have to say Busch might have had this one coming. The three on-track incidents over the past year were just that ? racing accidents. In the give-no-quarter world of NASCAR racing, people are going to crash. It?s that simple.

Running over other cars on pit road and the potential danger that presents is something completely different. Do it once, shame on you. Do it twice, you?re probably going to get an ass whipping.

Now it will be up to the kinder, gentler NASCAR that Brian France has promised this season to sort it all out. It will be interesting to see if any penalties will be issued to either driver later this week. Our guess is there won?t be because it happened behind closed doors.

Also, we think NASCAR secretly loves the additional publicity and story lines the incident will bring the series as it heads into this weekend?s 50th-annual Daytona 500.

A few years back, this reporter was working pit road at Charlotte for ARCA racer Billy Venturini when he tangled with Larry Foyt and was eliminated from the race. Venturini dragged his crippled racer around the track, quickly exited the car, and sprinted to Foyt?s pit where a Pier 6 brawl ensued.

ARCA officials immediately called Venturini to the trailer after the race and read him the riot act about his behavior. In the middle of the tirade, Lowes Motor Speedway honcho Humpy Wheeler came into the trailer to congratulate ARCA officials for a great show. After bubbling about what a great race it was, Wheeler asked ?How much extra do I owe you for the fight??

Everyone cracked up and moved on. We?re betting (this is Las Vegas, not Daytona, right?) that when the dust clears, the same thing will happen here.

The Sky is Falling ?

There?s been a number of NASCAR railbirds predicting 200 laps of carnage in this year?s 500 thanks to the handling characteristics of the new NASCAR Sprint Cup racer (the ?old? Car of Tomorrow).

With the backs of the cars tied in place thanks to a NASCAR mandated shocks and 500-pound springs across the back of the vehicle, crews have been tinkering with the front sway bar, springs and shocks to glue the cars to the racetrack. With the racers riding the bump stops on the shocks, the tires have basically become the springs for the cars.

While that works on an ultra smooth racetrack like Talladega, it?s a real teeth rattler for the drivers on the old, rough Daytona International Speedway surface. Instead of gliding along at 180 miles per hour, the cars this week at Daytona looked like balls in a lottery barrel as they bounced along the uneven racing surface leading to dire predictions of multiple wrecks.

Fifty years ago when DIS opened for the first 500, similar predictions of gloom and doom preceded the event. On raceday, 59 cars took the green and completed the 500 miles without a single caution flag. While a caution-free race is unlikely for this year?s 50th running of the Daytona 500, it?s also unlikely the ?sky is falling? predictions will ring true as well.

Still and always, the King ?

My fellow media wags have been busy grinding out all kinds of fast facts about the history of the Daytona 500 leading into this year?s golden anniversary event. Numerous topics have been debated – including who is the greatest driver in the history of the race.

In this case, there?s no debate.

Richard Petty is the king of the Daytona 500 scoring seven wins (1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979 and 1981). Petty also notched 10 Top-5 and 16 Top-10 finishes in appearing in every 500 from 1959 through 1992.

Only Cale Yarborough comes close with four victories, 10 Top-5 and 14 Top-10 finishes.

Picking a winner ?

Okay, who is going to win this year?s Daytona 500? It?s a good question with darn near 43 answers. With a new car, tons of new driver, team, crew combinations, it?s almost impossible to pick.

That said, we?ll completely ?homer? the deal and say we?re hopeful Wisconsin native Matt Kenseth can score his first 500 victory. Kenseth is a completely calculating driver who has been near the front of the last three or four 500s only to be denied in the final laps.

Other non-500 winners who have a strong chance at victory this year include Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Casey Mears, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, and Jamie McMurray.

In the end, whoever can hit the right set-up, make no mistakes on pit road and on top of the war wagon, and miss ?The Big One? will win the race. Like I said, that narrows it down to a 1 in 43 chance of picking the winner.

Sad News ? A pair of racing icons from our home state of Wisconsin passed from our ranks in the past week.

On Monday, February 4, longtime Wisconsin and Milwaukee Mile racing historian Al Krause, passed away. He was 86.

Krause attended his first auto race at the old Coliseum on the Wisconsin State Fair Park Fairgrounds in 1936.

In 1948, Krause was hired as an assistant in the publicity department at The Milwaukee Mile by then promoter Tom Marchese. Krause, who earned a Journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1950, was promoted to Director of Publicity at the famed ?Fair Park? oval later that year.

Over the next 50 years, Krause was a mainstay at The Mile becoming an expert on the early history of the track which began operation in 1903. Krause?s recollections and vast photo archive were of great assistance to this writer when selected to craft a 16-page center section to the Mile?s 100th-anniversary event program in 2003.

Always quick with a great story or tale from the past, Krause was a wealth of information about the history of one of America?s greatest speedways. Wisconsin racing, and fans of the history of The Milwaukee Mile, suffered a great loss with Krause?s passing.

On Saturday, Gerald Kulwicki ? father of the late Alan Kulwicki – died. While most NASCAR fans recognized the elder Kulwicki thanks to the championship efforts of his son, Gerry Kulwicki was a solid racer himself making his mark on the sport as a premiere engine builder in the 1960?s and 1970?s.

Later, he supported his son?s short-track efforts and the move to the NASCAR ranks in 1986. He lived to see the triumph of Alan score the first-ever NASCAR Winston Cup championship by a Wisconsin driver in 1992 – only to suffer the unthinkable tragedy and nightmare of his son?s passing in a plane crash five months later in April, 1993.

Gerry Kulwicki was 78 at the time of his passing. Both he and Krause will be sorely missed.

Ready to roll ?

We?ll be firing up ?Air Tundra? and wheeling south for the festivities at Daytona this week and, frankly, I can?t wait.

Every time you get to drive through the tunnel at Daytona International Speedway is special, but this year is even more so given it?s the 50th-anniversary of the Daytona 500.

At the moment, I don?t have a ?ride? for any of the races as I am not scheduled to spot the Cup, Nationwide, or Truck Series events this time around (that might change once I hit the garage area Tuesday morning).

Instead, I?ll be working on several media initiatives throughout the week including my normal weekly Truck Series interview segment on SIRIUS Satellite Radio NASCAR Channel 128. This week, we?ll be doing it live from the Daytona infield with regular hosts Steve Post and Danny ?Chocolate? Myers. Airtime of our segment this week is Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

Tune in if you can.

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