Bad boys behaving so far


Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch have been keeping famous tempers in check

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS

Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart are known for their racing success and explosive tempers.

Most every problem on the track is followed by a profanity-laced rant, a tantrum and, in Busch’s case, a meltdown right in the car that has at times prevented him from making a strong finish.

Then came the sulking and scowling.

If they even bothered to give interviews, the answers were usually short and snippy.

It was boorish behavior, but tolerated. Nothing was going to change NASCAR’s two biggest bad boys.

Until, that is, they changed.

Busch and Stewart seem to have mellowed this season. That was never more apparent than Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Both had a chance to win, and neither did.

Busch was done in first by a flat tire, then a blown engine. He was running second when he got his flat, had to stop for a new tire and disagreed with his crew’s decision to change only two and not all four. That’s where Busch would typically unload on crew chief Dave Rogers, working himself into a hysteria that could have derailed his race.

Instead, Busch simply scolded Rogers. As Busch climbed from his disabled car, the race streaming around him, viewers braced for his reaction. Then, for the second time in two days, he was a total pro.

“I’ve been blowing tires, mowing grass, knocking walls down and setting balls of fire down the backstretch in both races this weekend,” he said. “It might be good just to get out of here and come back and try again next year.”

Then came Stewart, who led a race-high 163 laps and had the field covered at one of only two active tracks where the two-time champion has never won a Sprint Cup race. After falling short in the Daytona 500, then losing because of a late caution a week earlier in Phoenix, he finally seemed headed to Victory Lane.

Then a rare mistake on pit road — he pulled the air hose tangled in his fender out of his stall as he sped off — brought a damaging penalty. Then a final four-tire stop was a long one. But because so many others took two, Stewart found himself behind Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya on the final run. Stewart could only catch Montoya and settled for second.

He was, as expected, hot on his team radio, and warned of an immediate discussion how they’d just given away a race for a second straight week. But he bottled that anger when he climbed from his car, and all the public saw was a disappointed driver dealing with his third loss in three weeks.

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