The Dangers of Buschwacking

Much has been made of the practice of Bushwhacking this season.

There have been arguments for it saying it's good for the sport because the ³big name" drivers bring in more viewers and fans. But those against it say it's bad for the series because the regular cup drivers have an unfair advantage over the other drivers because they have more experience, and better teams.

Some say it's good for the development of young drivers because they get to drive against some of the top drivers in the sports. The naysayers say it's bad for driver development because with all the cup drivers filling the field, there's no room for the younger drivers to get seat time on the track under race conditions.

But in this week's Busch series race, we saw another reason to do away with Bushwhacking: The risk of injury.

Early in the Carquest Auto Parts 300, two of Nextel Cup's biggest stars were involved in separate wrecks. Jaimie McMurray and Tony Stewart both crashed, at different times but in the same area of the track, and were injured seriously enough to be transported to a local hospital for further testing. Luckily, neither injury was serious enough to keep them out of the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, but what if it had been?

Imaging the reaction of Joe Gibbs or Jack Roush if you had to tell them that one of their drivers would not be able to race because they were injured in a Busch Series event. They would have to scramble to find a replacement driver.

And what of the sponsors? Would the Home Depot or Smirnoff Ice be pleased to learn that the driver they have based their advertising around was not going to be behind the wheel. Other sponsors have multi-million dollar ad campaigns based on a driver. Take the driver out of the car, and the sponsor would be none-too-pleased.

Of course, you also can't forget the fans. McMurray and Stewart both have large numbers of fans. What do you tell the fans of those drivers who spent their money on tickets and travel to come to the race, only to find that their favorite driver would not be appearing?

Every time a driver gets behind the wheel, there's a danger of injury in a crash. And some of the drivers thrive in that environment, going so far as to drive in other car types and tracks on off days. For example, both Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart are scheduled to race on a Wisconsin half-mile oval track on a Tuesday night in June. But should the dangers of them getting injured in a ³minor" race and possibly ending their season or even their career, be considered? Should that consideration be carried over to the Busch race?

Once a driver makes the Cup level, driving in the Busch race may give them some added track time, but is it worth the added danger? The drivers would undoubtedly say yes, because it's what they do, and they certainly aren't going to think of it in those terms. But ask their team owners and team sponsors, and you may get a different answer.

Published on May 29, 2006 in