Much ado has been made recently about NASCAR team owners Richard Childress and Kyle Busch getting into a skirmish at Kansas Speedway last weekend. While that was certainly a jaw-dropping moment for NASCAR owners, there was one other story that has been all but ignored by the mainstream NASCAR media involving the bizarre antics of a NASCAR owner.
For those uninitiated with the story, the owner of the Nationwide Series’ No. 79 2nd Chance Motorsports organization, Rick Russell, allegedly fired his entire team after the race at Kansas and told them all to find their own way home after holding their belongings hostage in the team van.
According to now former 2nd Chance Motorsports driver Tim Andrews’s personal Twitter account, Russell fired him and the entire team after the Nationwide Series race at Kansas and left them all stranded with no way to get home. Sadly, this is not the first case of Rick Russell being embroiled in controversy. At Bristol in March, just moments before the race was set to begin, Russell told his driver at that time, Jennifer Jo Cobb, that instead of running the full distance, she would be parking the car instead.
According to Cobb, this violated her contract and she quit on the spot, resulting in a nasty bout of he-said/she-said on Twitter. According to former crew chief Steve Kuykendall, Russell allegedly threatened him and the rest of the crew with a jack-handle. Along with Cobb leaving, her entire crew left with her and Russell scrounged up a patchwork skeleton crew of sorts, consisting mainly of fans that happened to be in the garage area with hot passes to complete four laps around the track with Chris Lawson driving the car.
If the latest actions are found to be completely true, and with NASCAR throwing the book at Richard Childress for his “actions detrimental to the sport,” perhaps NASCAR needs to intervene and investigate both incidents a bit further. At the least, Russell’s people skills seem to be sorely lacking and NASCAR officials have to be cringing at Russell’s boorish antics thus far this season. Its one thing for an owner to punch another owner, but for a boss to allegedly threaten physical harm upon his employees is absolutely appaling.
Russell’s case for being a mentally unhinged “loose cannon” is only getting stronger by the hour. His antics during and after the fallout with Cobb and now toward Andrews and his former crew members has to be a cause for concern. Getting fired with no notice is bad enough. Being fired and having your belongings held hostage along with being stranded in the Midwest is completely and utterly deplorable. This can’t encourage people wanting to work in NASCAR to apply for a job with 2nd Chance Motorsports.
This certainly does not encourage any driver to work for an owner with an apparent hair-trigger temper. And lastly, this can’t be good for any sponsor that, prior to this latest incident, that may have been even remotely interested in working with this organization. There’s been a few owners in NASCAR that have had deplorable business practices, whether they were embezzling money or not paying the staff, but this goes to a whole new level.
There are also a few examples of practices somewhat similar to this in some of the sorriest efforts ever to grace the Formula 1 World Championship. f1rejects.com’s Teams page is a great resource of just how crazily some teams have behaved in the highest level of motorsport.
NASCAR has to step in and set some sort of precedent here by either blackballing Russell from the sport or, at the very least, placing him under some sort of indefinite suspension, because it’s far more of a concern for him to have done these antics twice now in a three-month period than it is for a grandfather to beat up a 25-year old prima donna.
There is precedent, even in the world of F1, of teams being thrown out of the series due to unusual behavior. In 1992, the FIA tossed out the Andrea Moda team for “…bringing the sport into disrepute.” Andrea Moda essentially failed to give a safe car to Perry McCarthy, even knowingly sending him out on track with broken parts on his car.
As of now, it is unclear who will be behind the wheel of Russell’s No. 79 Ford at Michigan, or for that matter, who will be working on the car. One can only hope that if anyone else dares to work for Russell, they are spared the grisly fate of the last two crew staffs to work for him.
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