Flipping off the Presidents wife was probably a bad idea.
Kurt Busch has had a long history of confrontations and run-ins with other drivers, the media, NASCAR officials and even with his own team.
Those incidents, a result of Busch’s temperamental personality, wound up costing him his ride this week at Penske Racing and has left Busch without a team for the 2012 season.
Here’s a look at some of the key moments that have defined Busch’s career and ultimately led him to a career crossroads:
July 2002: During the July race at Daytona International Speedway, Busch was penalized for passing under caution. Then while trying to get to pit road, he made contact with Robby Gordon. While back in the pits, he went on a tirade over his in-car radio and was held on pit road for four laps for unsportsmanlike conduct and to regain his composure. He was not penalized further.
"I let my temper get the best of me the other night and the way I handled it was not in any way appropriate, and for that I'm truly sorry,” Busch said in an apology the next week.
August 2003: Busch and Jimmy Spencer had several run-ins over a two-year period, with Busch at one point calling Spencer a "decrepit old has-been.”
That feud, which began when Busch bumped Spencer out of the lead at Bristol for his first career victory in 2002, later came to a head – a punch to the head.
During the race at Michigan in 2003, they traded paint on the track and Busch admitted over his team radio that he intentionally tried to dent Spencer’s fender to cause him to wreck. After the race, Spencer confronted Busch in the garage and punched him through the driver’s side window, bloodying Busch’s nose.
Busch and team owner Jack Roush summoned police and threatened to press charges while NASCAR officials met with both drivers. Spencer was suspended for a race and both drivers were placed on probation.
May 2005: During the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, Busch was penalized two laps because he failed to follow NASCAR orders to stop on the track to let the pace car catch him late in the race. He then was held in the pits even longer as he began ranting over his team radio and cursed at NASCAR officials.
NASCAR called him to the hauler after the race.
As Busch left the NASCAR hauler, he looked at the media and said, “You cover highlights” and added that the media should stick to covering “racing.”
November 2005: A year after winning the inaugural Chase and the 2004 Cup championship, Busch announced during the 2005 season that he would leave Roush Racing for Penske Racing after the season.
He wound up leaving sooner than expected. While in Phoenix for the races at Phoenix International Raceway, Busch was stopped for speeding by an Arizona county sheriff and became irate.
Busch called the county sheriff’s deputies “a joke” and “punks” and asked them, “Do you know who I am?” before adding, “You’re only doing this because you’re a Jeff Gordon fan.”
He was then detained and forced to take a breathalyzer test. He tested below the legal limit but was cited for reckless driving. When details of his confrontation with police surfaced, Roush suspended him for the final two races of the season – despite Busch being in the Chase.
"It's the last straw for Roush Racing. We're officially retiring as Kurt Busch's apologists, effective today," team President Geoff Smith said.
June 2007: Angry over the way Tony Stewart raced him at Dover, Busch pulled his Penske Racing car alongside Stewart's during a pit stop, nearly hitting one of Stewart's crewman.
NASCAR fined Busch $100,000 and docked him 100 points. It was the largest penalty in NASCAR history for a driver for a non-mechanical, racing-related infraction.
Busch apologized to the crew member and for his actions.
As for Tony Stewart, Busch was not so apologetic.
"Tony's got a lot of things going on," Busch said. "He's a two-time champion, and I respect him. Everybody in the garage area respects his driving ability and what he can do with a race car. He just seems to absorb a lot with all the things he does outside the race track. It's almost like he's our NASCAR version of Rosie O'Donnell right now."
That would lead to another incident the following year.
February 2008: During Budweiser Shootout practice at Daytona, Busch and Stewart tangled on the track.
Busch was driving on the top side of the track when Stewart tried to go high and – depending on their perspective – Busch either blocked Stewart and caused a collision or Stewart carelessly hooked Busch into the wall.
As both drivers approached pit road, Busch slammed his car into the side of Stewart’s three times, and the drivers gestured angrily at one another as they sat stopped at the entrance to the garage.
Both drivers were immediately summoned to the NASCAR hauler. Once inside, according to sources, Busch apparently insulted Stewart, who then took a swing at him.
Busch later talked about the confrontation on a Las Vegas radio station, saying, “He wanted to throw a punch, but I bobbed and weaved like a middle welterweight. We went toe to toe, I think, because I told him he has a large waistline.”
No penalties were issued.
March 2009: Busch always has had a tendency to lose his cool and become irate on his team radio during races, but he took it to a new level at Martinsville Speedway.
He even had a heated and terse exchange with team owner Roger Penske.
Busch: “Our day is about shot now.”
Penske: “You just do your best, there. You’re going to be fine, OK?”
Busch: “There’s no way we can compete. All we’re doing is hanging on to a track position that was given to us. It’s the most frustrating thing in the world to think that you think that we’re better than what we are.”
Penske: “It’s no good if you blow yourself up. We’d be a lot better. I’ll tell you that right now. I’m watching this thing, OK? You made a change, it didn’t work. … All we hear is a bunch of stuff on the radio. So let’s get serious here, OK? You understand?”
Busch: “10-4, dude. 10-4.”
Penske: “OK, I’m the car owner. You’ll listen to me, OK?”
Busch: “Yeah, this is great.”
Penske: “Just tell me right now if you don’t want to drive it.”
Busch: “Roger, we don’t make any good adjustments during the race. If we started 39th, we’d be three laps down, running about 35th. You understand that?”
Penske: “I don’t understand your thinking, if you want to know the truth. Let’s just drive this thing, do the best you can. Everyone is trying, OK? We don’t need a lot of rhetoric that’s always negative, OK? I know it’s not perfect.”
Busch: “If you think that I give up behind the wheel, then you’ve got the wrong guy.”
May 2011: At Richmond, Busch goes on another explosive rant on his team radio.
Prior to an early pit stop, Busch said to crew chief Steve Addington: “I can’t fix this. Neither can you.”
Later in the race, after told what adjustments were going to be made, Busch responded to Addington and technical director Tom German: “Knock yourself out. According to German, he doesn’t like driver input anyway.”
And later in the race, Busch said: “We look like a monkey [expletive] a football. The [expletive] Penske [cars] are a [expletive] joke. [Expletive] everybody.”
Busch’s outburst and criticism led to some changes at Penske, with German leaving and crew chiefs allowed to use more driver input in building and setting up the cars.
September 2011: In the fall race at Richmond, Busch continued his long-running feud with five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, spinning Johnson early in the race and causing Johnson to retaliate. Following the race, Busch was angered by media questions about the incident and his rivalry with Johnson.
Busch walked away from a reporter on pit road when asked if he or Johnson could win the championship if their feud continued. When the reporter tried to get Busch to answer the question, Busch argued with him and then argued again later in the media center. Busch also tore up a transcript of quotes from him saying that he was in Johnson's head, something he had denied saying during his postrace news conference.
Busch later apologized.
November 2011: The final straw for Penske and Busch’s team came in the season finale at Homestead. Busch, whose transmission failed just a couple of laps into the race, was driving his car into the garage when his in-car camera caught him flipping the bird to someone in the garage.
Typically vehicles other than race cars and pace cars are not allowed in the garage area, but with the presence of First Lady Michelle Obama at the race, an SUV carrying Obama’s entourage was trying to exit the garage as Busch entered. Busch later said he didn’t know who was in the car and that the gesture was not directed at any one person.
After climbing from his car, Busch also was caught on camera cursing at ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch as Punch waited to do a live interview. Busch asked if they could just tape the interview, and Punch said ESPN wanted to do it live.
"I’d like to do it live, too, [expletive] 10 minutes ago,” Busch said.
Busch later said he was angry because he did not know until Punch told him that a piece of his transmission hit Tony Stewart’s car, which could have hurt Stewart’s chances of winning the title.
Penske and Busch both apologized for the incident, but Busch was fined $50,000 by NASCAR. And two weeks later, Busch and Penske “mutually agreed” to part ways.