Add this to the "What I didn't expect to hear from a driver category." In a recent interview with Speed Channel's public relations staff, former NASCAR driver-turned-analyst Jimmy Spencer was asked where he came down on the Richard Childress vs. Kyle Busch debate.
Spencer's answer to that as well as several other questions related to the incident following last Saturday's Truck Series race at Kansas will likely surprise you. At one point, Spencer claims Childress' assault on Busch "gave the sport the biggest black eye it has had in years."
Q: What’s your take on the Richard Childress/Kyle Busch ordeal? Spencer: Richard Childress stepped over the line. The biggest problem I have with his actions is that he’s representing major corporations with thousands of employees and he let his temper lead him to assault someone. That’s a big black eye on the sport. The fans and others in the sport may think it’s funny but these major companies cannot be happy having a car owner represent them who assaults another person. I’d be willing to bet there are some additional actions behind-the-scenes to punish Childress for what he did.
Q: Did the penalty fit the crime, so to speak?
Spencer: I don’t think NASCAR did enough. The $150,000 fine was fine but a three-week suspension would have been more appropriate. He took responsibility for what he did but never apologized for it because he’s really not sorry.
I admire Kyle for not fighting back and I admire him for staying in the car at Darlington when Kevin Harvick came up to his car. He’s the most exciting driver in our sport right now. Yes, he ruffles feathers but so did Dale Earnhardt. But Earnhardt didn’t attack people. I admire Kyle for respecting Childress enough, although he got punched, to not strike him back. It takes a strong person not to hit back. I consider Kyle a strong person for not returning the punch.
Childress’ actions gave the sport the biggest black eye it has had in years. NASCAR did the right thing by fining him but should have come down on him harder. I’ve been involved in a situation like that and know from experience that it affects the younger generation a lot, especially the kids watching the sport, to know Childress struck a driver.
Q: How would you have viewed the situation if it had been Joey Coulter who had punched Busch? Spencer: I could have handled Joey Coulter attacking Busch better than Childress doing it. I do not condone fighting at all and don’t think a person should ever touch another human being. I did it to Kurt Busch and I was wrong. In today’s society, you do not touch or physically confront people. You can argue with them, call them names, yell at them but you do not touch them. There are other ways to handle these situations.”
Q:This took place in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series garage. Richard Childress owns the truck of Joey Coulter and Kyle Busch owns the truck he was driving. Should an owner-to-owner confrontation be permitted or do you simply take issue with the owner-to-driver scenario?
Spencer: No, a physical owner-to-owner confrontation is not okay. If Childress had simply verbally argued with Busch, I would have been okay with that. NASCAR’s policy is to police the garage area and the sport. The late Bill France, Jr. said you should not touch another driver. That’s where NASCAR comes in. People can say it’s owner-to-owner and try to make it seem okay, but it should have been a discussion or screaming match only.
Q:Was Kyle Busch out of line in bumping Joey Coulter’s truck on the cool-down lap?
Spencer: What I saw Kyle do was not out of line. If Kyle hadn’t lifted, he would have wrecked Joey Coulter. They were putting on a hell of a race for fifth place and Joey finally slid up in front of Kyle and Kyle lifted and let him go. What Joey did was wrong because he could have wrecked both trucks if Kyle hadn’t lifted. Give Kyle credit for lifting but Kyle bumped him to get his attention and teach him a lesson. Sure, he did a little damage to the quarter panel of Joey’s truck, but he also did the same to his own truck. I think NASCAR took that into consideration, as well. That’s how you teach younger drivers and that’s just part of racing.
I don’t care who the owner is. If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen. Childress had the worst driver in the garage area for beating the hell out of competitors’ cars in Dale Earnhardt. I loved Earnhardt and he was an awesome driver but he was the worst about putting tire marks on you and dinging your fenders. Come on, Childress. I wonder if Childress would have grabbed hold of Ryan Newman or Rusty Wallace or Jimmy Spencer.
Q: It’s surprising to hear this viewpoint from the man who famously punched Kurt Busch, Kyle’s older brother:
Spencer: I went over the line with Kurt Busch. I made a better person out of Kurt by punching him but I also know I shouldn’t have touched him. I’ve been in many brawls and nobody benefits from it. Kurt learned his lesson but so did I and if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have hit him.
And there you have it, straight from "Mr. Excitement" himself.