Several things to ponder today – the death at 71 of four-time F1 Grand Prix of Canada driver Peter Gethin and more fallout from the dismissal Monday by Roger Penske of NASCAR star Kurt Busch.
Kurt Busch gave every indication Monday night, in an appearance on Speed TV, that he still really doesn’t get it.
Yes, Penske Racing said in a statement Monday that it was a mutual decision for Busch to leave the team in mid-contract and Busch put out a statement to say that discussions about a parting of the ways had been going on for some time.
But anybody with a brain knows that those platitudes were all just PR baloney and the fact of the matter is that Roger Penske fired Kurt Busch because, despite his race victories and Chase appearances, he had become a liability to Penske Racing and its sponsors.
But rather than putting his tail between his legs, where it belongs, and admitting – and accepting – defeat, Busch was talking on TV as if he, in fact, instigated the whole thing because - well - he just wasn’t a good fit at Penske Racing.
Now, any addict will tell you the only way to begin a recovery is to admit to hitting bottom. This should have been Kurt Busch’s bottom. But to hear him tell it, that deal Sunday night in Las Vegas, when Penske sent the pink slip Special Delivery to his house, was just another bump in the road.
"I’m excited about the future," Busch said "This is a fresh start for me. I’ve got a champion’s provisional that will guarantee me a spot in any race that I want to go to. There’s all types of other racing options, so it’s been a unique day. It’s going to be a unique week and month to figure out the next direction."
Way to go, Kurt.
This is what he should have said.
"I am truly sorry that it has come to this. I have sought the services of a psychologist to help me gain control of my emotions so that I can be a better person off the race track as well as on. I realize that my actions have been selfish and self-centred and that I have let down the sponsors that have made it possible for me to drive race cars in NASCAR for a living.
"Today is the first day of the rest of my life and I intend to take the first step of tens of thousands that will eventually see me welcomed back to this great sport. In the meantime, I plan to take a sabbatical and start to work on myself.
"I hope, when I return, that the slate will be clean and we can all go forward together. Thank you."
Instead, it was business as usual – a sign, I suggest, that means nothing will ever really change.
Jimmy Spencer, who had a few run-ins with Kurt Busch over the course of his career (he punched the elder Busch brother in the shnozz once), had this to say:
"Kurt is a hell of a driver and a past champion but he thinks he’s above everyone and everything. You can’t treat people the way he has – I don’t care who they are. Kurt has disgraced NASCAR and his sponsors.
"He obviously needs to get some help managing his anger and hopefully he will. If he does, maybe he can survive being let go from Penske, but it will be hard for another top-notch team to pick him up without him demonstrating a complete overhaul and true remorse.
"My gut feeling, though, is that he can’t truly come back from this. He won races this year, made the Chase and is a former champion, and yet he still was let go. That does not bode well for his future.
"Ironically, I think people are overlooking the Pennzoil situation. Pennzoil left Richard Childress Racing and Kevin Harvick for a lot less offensive behavior from Harvick due to Harvick’s bickering with his crew over the radio and fighting with Richard Childress over his contract.
"In my opinion, Roger Penske is the most honorable man in motorsports and he has the utmost respect of everyone in NASCAR and IndyCar. But Busch has treated him with the most disrespect I’ve ever seen a driver treat an owner.
"Kurt has blown up and shown his rear end to the point that I think Roger’s hands were tied and he had to fire him not just for the sponsor but for the morale and betterment of the organization."
I suggest that somebody cut out what Jimmy Spencer just said and give it to Kurt Busch and have him take those words to heart. Because Spencer is bang on.
But he probably won’t. He’s Kurt Busch, don’tcha know.
And it’s everybody else’s fault.
Okay, I won’t repeat everything in the official obituary (link here) but Peter Gethin, the son of a jockey who died Monday, was more interested in horsepower than horses and enjoyed a wonderful career in sports cars, Formula 5000 and Formula One.
He drove in four Canadian Grands Prix as well as several races in the original Can-Am Series (Edmonton in 1970, for instance). The "break" (if you want to call it that) that got him into F1 came when Bruce McLaren was killed and Denis Hulme was injured and Teddy Mayer recruited him to drive the McLaren-Ford F1 car for the second half of the 1970 season, starting at Holland.
His Grand Prix of Canada race at Mont-Tremblant on Sept. 20 brought him his best result in this country, where he finished sixth behind the Ferraris of Jacky Ickz and Clay Regazzoni (they were first and second in the race), Chris Amon in a March-Ford, Pedro Rodriguez in a BRM and the Surtees-Ford of John Surtees.
In 1971 at Mosport, he finished 14th driving for BRM, completing 59 of 64 laps (Jackie Stewart was the winner). After that, he fell out of the 1972 race after 25 laps with a broken suspension (Stewart won again) and in 1973 he only went five laps before an oil pump belt broke. He was in a BRM for both those races. Peter Revson won that ‘73 race, incidentally, although results weren’t made official for several hours after the checkers.
Gethin won his one and only F1 race for BRM at the Grand Prix of Italy in 1971 in which 0.61 seconds separated the top five finishers (watch the video here).
He had been ill for some time.