Voices From The Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Wednesday February 18, 2009
Like most Cup racing fans out there, I, too, have a driver that I like to dislike more than others. I don’t take it to the level that some people do and actually “hate” the guy, mainly because that would be wasting a lot of time and emotion on someone I don’t really care about anyway. Instead, I am going to waste time and words by making him the focus of this column — and hopefully meet a deadline while I’m at it.
Of course, the person I am talking about is none other than Kyle Busch. But before those few Kyle fans out there get all riled up, let me remind you that you (Kyle fans) are, in fact, a minority — so that ought to tell you something right there. But let’s back up a minute and take a look at why Kyle is a candidate for such popular disdain.
The problem with Kyle is, and always has been, his arrogance. This kid is immensely talented, and even I admit that he really can drive the wheels off a race car. Unfortunately, as great as his talent can be, his ego and arrogance always seem to wind up that much greater.
During this last week at Daytona, however, I thought for a brief moment that I may have to give Kyle some credit, and actually change my mode of thinking for the better. Not that I plan to jump on the kid’s bandwagon and laud his praises; but, at the very least, I would admit to myself that maybe he is maturing a bit, after all.
That moment came during practice for the Daytona 500, when it was widely reported and shown (probably partly as a PR stunt, in combination with disbelief) that it was the “veteran” Kyle who was helping and mentoring the new rookie in the Joe Gibbs stable, Joey Logano.
As the practice wore on, there were in-car camera shots of Kyle actually practicing in the No. 20 car. There were garage shots of Kyle (and Denny Hamlin) talking to and gesturing at Joey, presumably about how the car would handle and not about how to slide a piece of bologna into two pieces of sliced bread. There was also talk in the booth of how mature Kyle had become. In actuality, there seemed to be a sense of surprise!
All of that got me to thinking… ya know, maybe I should give the kid a break. He was acting very mature in all those reports. He obviously wasn’t thinking only of himself… and maybe he was growing up after all. To tell you the truth, I was actually a bit sorry to see it, really. I mean geez, let’s face it — when you dislike someone that much, the last thing you want to see is the guy acting like a normal human being! You’d have to give him credit for that; and if you take away Kyle’s ego and arrogance, what have you got left to dislike him for?! Even I am not so cruel and petty as to dislike a guy solely because of his looks.
Well, I hadn’t even had a whole day to think about this new and alien way of thinking about Kyle before another incident stopped me from worrying about it altogether.
Saturday afternoon’s Nationwide Series race was winding down and heating up! Tony Stewart was in the lead and Kyle was second — literally right up Tony’s butt, with rivals Carl and Clint in hot pursuit of them both! Coming off turn four on the final lap, Kyle gives Tony the expected little nudge, making Tony looser than a politician with taxpayer’s dollars! Miraculously, Tony manages to hang on, holding speed just enough to stay ahead of Kyle. Meanwhile, here come Carl and Clint behind them! As all cars crossed the finish line, few race fans could deny that they had just witnessed one of the finest finishes in recent memory!
Kyle’s nudge to Tony — while having the initial desired effect — also cost Kyle precious momentum, allowing both Carl and Clint to pass him and relegating the No. 18 to a fourth place finish.
Great, great racing by all involved!
Now, here is where it all falls apart. After the race, there are the obligatory interviews with all involved. Tony, Carl, and Clint are all pumped and ecstatic — they’re in wonder of how thrilling it all was. But, where is Kyle? There is no interview with Kyle! Why not?
The reason there was no interview is because Kyle, after returning to the garage, immediately jumped out of his car and stormed off in disgust… presumably to hide and pout somewhere. My question is WHY, Kyle?
Undoubtedly, there has to be some disappointment at not winning the race — that is understandable. And I can even understand the competitive nature of the racers themselves; but give me a break! Kyle has absolutely nothing at stake in this race. He is racing for fun! He is not racing for the first win of his career here — far from it. So, why ruin a truly fantastic effort and finish with such childish petulance? When his post-race actions were reported (almost immediately, by FS insiders), I almost couldn’t believe it. There was no reason for it, no reason at all. It didn’t make sense.
But… now it does. That, my friends, IS Kyle Busch. A very talented, but equally childish and petulant race car driver that people love to hate (or at least dislike very much!)
So, keep up the good work, Kyle. And if you hear cheering… it’s because you didn’t.
Stay off the wall!
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