Jeff Gordon believes Kurt Busch's suspension is a step backwards in the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion's career but still hopes he can bounce back and show his best on the track again.
Busch is currently serving a suspension after NASCAR ruled he violated a probation status by verbally abusing a journalist last week at Dover. Previous pitroad incidents at Darlington had prompted action from the sanctioning body but officials deemed the Phoenix driver's behaviour last weekend deserved further reprimand.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Gordon called Busch's comments towards Sporting News journalist Bob Pockrass "out of line" and lamented that despite his previous incidents and the resulting consequences, Busch entered into more controversy
"I was a little bit surprised," said Gordon when asked about his rival's one-week suspension. "I know what Kurt was saying was out of line.
"You never know what is going to constitute sitting at home for the weekend. Obviously a lot of these things are happening you have to regulate certain areas of the sport. You would think he had got enough wake-up calls, but certain things continue."
Gordon, who beat Busch to victory a year ago at Pocono, recognises the former Penske driver as one of the most talented in the Cup field and believes if he can harness his emotions he could eventually be able to get back to winning ways.
"He does have a tremendous amount of talent and that is the unfortunate side of it," said Gordon. "I think he could have such a bright future in this sport. I think that you continue to hope that a guy learns his lesson and a guy can pull it together.
"I'm sure in his mind this is a minor incident and didn't justify what happened but eventually you have to start straightening up your act and utilising your talent on the race track to earn the respect.
"This unfortunately is a step backwards for him. I definitely think that the amount of talent he has, if he can control his emotions, he can be at the top of the sport like he was at one time."
Reigning Cup champion and team owner Tony Stewart, who has had his share of incidents with media in the past as a driver, said that from an owner's perspective, despite Busch's credentials and talent, his current situation makes it tough for his employer, James Finch's Phoenix squad.
"You definitely have to look at that, because you know half of the battle is getting a good partner and sponsor," said Stewart. "And if the sponsors are leery, then it puts you in a bad spot as an owner unless you have unlimited funding and can just put in there whoever you want, it's definitely a huge concern."
Finch is reportedly meeting with Busch early next week before the next Cup event at Michigan.