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Associated Press | File NASCAR driver Kurt Busch celebrates after learning he won the pole during qualifying at Darlington Raceway.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Kurt Busch started from the pole at Darlington Raceway and led 69 laps before his car began to fade. When it did, it triggered some of that salty language Busch is notorious for using on his in-car radio.
But the worst of it was still tame by Busch's standards - something he's been working on this year.
"Everything has been nice this year. Even though we've had some moments, like a dispute with Tony Stewart, it seemed to blow over," Busch said. "I'm just looking for a level line of emotions."
Emotions have often gotten the best of Busch, and it was this time last year when things started to unravel for the 2004 NASCAR champion.
NASCAR fined him $50,000 for reckless driving on pit road at Darlington and a post-race altercation with Ryan Newman's crew members. It sent him into the Sprint All-Star Race in a surly mood, and he quickly grew impatient with reporters attempting to talk to him about the NASCAR penalties and Newman's accusation that Busch had a "chemical imbalance."
"This is good for our sport. This is WWE-type action," Busch snapped. "This is fun. This is entertainment, right guys?"
Three weeks later, Busch was suspended for one race for verbally abusing a reporter after the Nationwide Series race at Dover.
He's not had the same kind of problems this year. As he heads into Saturday night's All-Star race, Busch is fairly drama-free.
That incident this season with Stewart occurred after the race at Richmond, when Stewart angrily banged into Busch's car on the cool-down laps because contact between the two on the final restart knocked Stewart out of the groove.
They exchanged words back in the garage, with Busch insisting the closing laps "were a free-for-all" and he did nothing wrong.
So the focus now has to be on his racing, which has been decent this year with Furniture Row Racing.
Although he doesn't have the finishes to show for it, he's been running near the front in several races and in position to pull off some big finishes of late.
Busch has two top-five finishes, three top 10s, has led 108 laps and is 18th in the Sprint Cup standings. He might have won at Talladega two weeks ago if not for a late accident that sent his car airborne.
Busch just wants his No. 78 team to be in position more often to run for wins.
"We want to find more," he said. "It's good that we have these chances, but we want to have more."
Patrick may get help with rules change
The rules surrounding Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race continue to change, and the latest tweak might benefit Danica Patrick.
Among a handful of changes announced Wednesday was a clarification that the winning driver of the Sprint Fan Vote must only have a car in raceable condition to advance to the All-Star Race. That counters earlier announcements that said the winner of the fan vote must finish on the lead lap of the Sprint Showdown preliminary race.
NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said the earlier reference to finishing on the lead lap was simply miscommunication on NASCAR's part.
Fans online suggested the change was intended to benefit Patrick, who has struggled on intermediate tracks this year but is currently among the top-five vote getters.
Kanaan an annual fan favorite at Indy
Tony Kanaan has had 11 chances to win the Indianapolis 500 and come up empty every time.
He was leading in 2007 when the race was stopped for rain past the halfway point. Steady showers would have made him the victor, but the bad weather passed, the race resumed, and he watched teammate Dario Franchitti drive to victory.
Kanaan has led 221 laps - in eight of his 11 starts - has five top-five finishes, but the closest he ever came to drinking the milk was a second-place finish to Buddy Rice in 2004.
Still, the Brazilian is adored by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway crowd, and that's enough right now for Kanaan.
"I don't feel this place owes me anything. I have had great times here," Kanaan said Wednesday. "Although some people would say I'm making an excuse - but the experiences that I had, I can only say every time I've been here I put myself in the position to win this race. That's all I can do."
The crowd reaction still touches Kanaan, and it lifted him in 2007 when he wound up 12th in a race that could have been his.
"Every time I drive my golf cart out there I can hear my name, big time," he said, before recalling the end of the 2007 race, "I got out of the car, the entire place was screaming my name, and Dario had won the race. If I never win this thing, I think I got the feeling from the people around here how is it to win."
Harmon accused of stealing transporter
SALISBURY, N.C. - NASCAR driver Mike Harmon has been accused of stealing a team transporter from Jennifer Jo Cobb.
Cobb reported the trailer was stolen early Saturday from the JJC racing shop. She is a driver and team owner in NASCAR's Truck Series.
Cobb told investigators the trailer was taken by Harmon and Sheila Rae Rice, and the Rowan County Sheriff's Office said it issued warrants for their arrest for felony larceny and breaking and entering.
Cobb estimated the value of the hauler and its contents at $279,000.
Harmon used to be the team manager for Cobb's Nationwide team, and indicated Wednesday night in a series of tweets he's involved in litigation with the driver.
"I want it known that I have never stolen so much as a piece of bubble gum in my life," Harmon posted on Twitter. "I did not take JJC hauler, there is no video of me anywhere near her shop. Today she was the windshield & I was the bug, but when we get in FEDERAL court in a couple wks there's a boulder coming."
Harmon has run five of nine Nationwide Series races this year.
Cobb has run all four Truck Series races this year and her best finish was 17th at Kansas. She said in a statement she's trying to recover the trailer and its contents in time for Friday night's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Practice is today.
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