Saturday, July 14, 2007
Stewart and Busch teammates? They deserve each other
By David Newton
JOLIET, Ill. -- Not far from Chicagoland Speedway sits a sandstone fortress called Joliet Prison, the site of the opening scene in the 1980 comedy "The Blues Brothers."
You can almost picture John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, in dark sunglasses and dark suits, driving away from the institute in a black 1974 Plymouth Fury as the sun begins to rise over this community about an hour outside of Chicago.
Then you get to the track and start picturing Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch, in dark sunglasses and not-so-dark suits, driving in.
Both were involved in situations last weekend at Daytona International Speedway that left teammates with their jaws hanging in disbelief. Both continued to make statements on Friday at Chicagoland that seemingly defied reason.
First Stewart. The two-time Nextel Cup champion blamed Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin for causing a wreck that took both drivers out while running first and second. He said Hamlin checked up, causing him to run through him.
He then mentioned a situation with Hamlin the day before in practice, something nobody would have been aware of had he not brought it up and nobody still is totally sure about because he refuses to address it.
He then questioned Hamlin's trustworthiness as a teammate even though Hamlin did nothing wrong.
Asked to explain what happened, Stewart became defensive.
"Guys, I'm not gonna talk about that this week," he said. "That was last week. I'm onto this week. If you want to talk about something that's going on this week, great. If not, I don't have time to mess around with something that happened last week or two years ago or four years ago."
Reminded he discussed it on his weekly radio show, the arrogance set in.
"Because I choose to do it there," Stewart said. "I don't choose to do it with this group of people."
This group of people over the years has said plenty of wonderful things about Stewart, from his generous donations to the Victory Junction Camp to his brilliant driving. This group also has had to bash him from time to time for, as Hamlin said so well, being himself.
As Hamlin also said, that's not going to change.
Now for Busch. He said Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon blew him off when he went to congratulate him following the race. He said this even though television replays show Gordon, while doing an interview, gave Busch the thumbs up on pit road.
Is he fabricating a controversy? Sounds like it.
Busch went on to describe himself as an outcast at HMS, which will replace him with Dale Earnhardt Jr. next season.
Asked where things stood now, he tossed fuel on the fire.
"I'm not helping anybody but myself and this team for winning races," Busch said. "I'm not helping Jeff Gordon, I'm not helping Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears.
Guys, I'm not gonna talk about that this week. That was last week. I'm onto this week.
"They're able to go back and see what [setup] I run, but for me it's just to go out there and try to win races and keep winning with my name."
Busch added that it's almost a waste of time attending team meetings anymore, saying since it was announced Earnhardt was coming to HMS, "I don't even talk about what my car does because they all seem to talk amongst themselves.
"I sort just sit there in the corner," he added.
If they weren't grown men, Busch and Stewart would be sent to the corner.
Better yet, Joe Gibbs Racing should sign the 22-year-old Busch and force him to become teammates with Stewart. The organization is on Busch's short list that also includes Richard Childress Racing, Dale Earnhardt Inc., Evernham Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
Imagine the fireworks.
Busch would wreck Stewart. Stewart would wreck Busch.
Both would blame Hamlin.
Stewart would invite Busch and Hamlin to be on his radio show to boost ratings.
Reporters -- sorry, this group of people -- would clog up the phone lines calling Stewart with questions because he would refuse to answer them at the track.
The smartest thing Stewart and Busch said on Friday was both would have been better off not talking.
"If I had just kept my mouth shut last week like I should have done, I wouldn't have to even be worrying dealing with you guys about it this week," Stewart said.
Said Busch, "Instead of complaining or whining about it, I guess I opened my mouth to another can [of worms]."
Unfortunately, talking is not a crime, so the doors of Joliet Prison won't be opened for these two.
I'm not helping Jeff Gordon, I'm not helping Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.