The Frontstretch: There Is No New Kyle Busch – There Wasn't Even An Old One by Kurt Smith -- Friday June 4, 2010

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Have you ever seen a commercial where a brand of detergent or something of that nature pronounces itself “new and improved?” This sort of advertising was far more common when I was a lad, as opposed to today where every corporation tries to show how hip they are with their humorous ad campaigns.

At any rate, the word “new” is sometimes used to describe a person who has reportedly changed his ways almost as often as it is applied to a beverage. And the label can be easily dismissed as a false premise with racecar drivers as much as it can be dismissed as a marketing tool.

Following Kyle Busch’s Coca-Cola 600 spat, with Jeff Burton of all people, our own Tom Bowles, selling his own website out writing for Sports Illustrated, praised Shrub for his keeping his cool as Burton spewed unseemly rage at him. Tom said, quote, “He may earn himself a Sprint Cup title yet, as long as “old Kyle” stays trapped in the closet for good.”

Tom’s a good guy and a good boss, and I will readily admit that he is more of an insider than I. But I doubt there is an “old” Kyle or “new” Kyle. After five seasons in Sprint Cup, following every race where Kyle Busch is the story, there are musings about how this is the new “mature Kyle” or that it’s the old “petulant Kyle” that has surfaced this week. Actually, this has been going on for about a year.

Kyle Busch is an enormously gifted racecar driver and a fiercely driven competitor who would rather eat a tire than lose. He is an emotional and still young man who is performing in the most visible form of motorsports in America. He puts enormous pressure on himself—and his crew—to accept nothing less than a trip to victory lane, and occasionally gets publicly angry when things do not go his way. Sometimes he handles himself very well, other times not so well.

None of that is “old” or “new” about him.

Meet the new Kyle Busch. Same as the old Kyle Busch.

I remember similar frequent commentary about another driver, a fellow by the name of Tony Stewart. Stewart too was plenty brash and temperamental, and on occasion would get under the skin of more than a few fans with his road rage. But many years after the motorsports press was calling him a kinder and gentler Tony, he would openly fume about other drivers not moving over for him (remember Billy Bad Butt?), and still didn’t back away from embarrassing a reporter who asked a question he didn’t like.

After years of familiarity with him the press’s stance toward Smoke has softened a bit. Stewart does deserve great credit for using his fame and money to help those less fortunate. He and Jeff Gordon are tops in that regard. It can’t be easy to organize the Prelude to the Dream, persuading the sport’s biggest stars to find time in their schedules to race on a dirt track in Ohio. Tony could be like every other driver, make spotty appearances for his Foundation to improve his image, and there certainly wouldn’t be anything wrong with that. What he does do is often above and beyond.

But the notion that Stewart is a changed man after so many years in NASCAR is a myth. Tony’s always had a temper, he just has championships and more fans now. If Tony is new and improved today, it may be because as an owner he is more cognizant of how sponsors look at a driver’s behavior. Whatever the reason, he has changed and become more palatable—or unpalatable, depending on your worldview.

Similarly, in a few races this season, broadcasters in the booth made a point to trumpet Kyle Busch’s handling of adversity early in a race, and how the “old” Kyle Busch would not have approached the situation so professionally. Really? Everything went perfectly and smoothly throughout all 16 wins before this season? He won 62 top series races in five years by exploding at his crew when things went wrong? Sounds to me like whatever he had been doing was working fairly well.

After the All-Star race where Kyle threatened to murder Denny Hamlin for racing him hard, we can probably put the whole idea of a “new” Kyle Busch to bed. Hamlin would clearly agree, given his comments to the media afterward. His star teammate laughed at the idea that there is a “new” Kyle Busch, and he would probably know better than most of us.

Why do folks seem so eager to see a better behaved Kyle Busch anyway? Reporters and commentators may self-righteously condemn his behavior, and sometimes it is warranted. Shouting “you guys suck” at one’s crew over the radio isn’t going to endear a young millionaire to underpaid and under-appreciated working class folk. He occasionally does regrettable things, because like all of us, the man is flawed.

But the world of NASCAR fans and reporters sure can’t bring themselves to ignore the guy. Like Dale Earnhardt told Jeff Gordon, it doesn’t matter if they’re booing, as long as they’re making noise.

And Kyle Busch can drive the hell out of a racecar. There isn’t anything new about that either.

Whatever his handling of any incident that happens on a racetrack, it will be designated as his “new” or “old” behavior, depending on how much maturity he demonstrates. But maybe it’s just of case of people needing to get to know him better, just as people eventually did with Stewart when he made appearances for sick kids. Someday another cocky hotshot will come along, and we’ll be frowning on the lack of respect he shows established veterans like Kyle Busch.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Racing to the Point: NASCAR Has Its Own Heartbreak Kid
Beyond the Cockpit: Brittany Force, the Fastest Force
Voices from the Cheap Seats: Advertising for Dummies
Who’s Hot / Who’s Not in Sprint Cup: Off Week-Richmond Edition
Couch Potato Tuesday: Picking The Best IndyCar On-Air Personalities


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Busch Basher
06/04/2010 09:51 AM

I’ll never forget the interview where Kyle Busch was asked if he thought the recession was the cause of poor attendance at the track. He looked the interviewer right in the eye and said, “I don’t know anything about a recession.” What a jerk.

06/04/2010 10:49 AM

Kyle Busch is a great driver. He is not even a good racer however. Until he learns self control, he will always be his own enemy on the track. I doubt he will ever win a championship and that’s sad. The man is an enormous talent.

06/04/2010 12:18 PM

I am a longtime supporter of Tony, and I also think Kyle is in the same mold, a great race car driver. Thanks for some realistic comments about both for a change….. WFH

06/04/2010 01:22 PM

So, if Kyle isn’t the “new” Kyle or the “petulant,” does that mean he’s the still “bi-polar” Kyle?


All I know is that in the old days if Kyle had tried to stuff his race car in between someone like Dale Sr and somebody like Cale or Bobby Allison or Jimmy Spencer and cut their tire down by being stupid and after the race Kyle got a tongue lashing from any of those drivers and smirked at them the way Kyle did at Jeff burton, Kyle would be picking up his teeth with a sponge…

I miss those days.

Kyle is very good race driver, but he’s not nearly the legend he thinks he is.

06/04/2010 01:27 PM

J.J. boy do I agree with you — spoiled brat.

06/04/2010 05:57 PM

I don’t know anything about a recession either, but… That’s cause I’m not n idiot and set myself up to succeed in life and not live off the government. Complaints don’t pay the bills.

06/04/2010 10:09 PM

DansMom: Once again, you are 100% wrong. You are a complete idiot! Every one of your posts, including this one, have proven that.
You can try to claim that you are a success in life, but you are not even intelligent enough to realize that the things you say speak more about your general life than you realize.
First of all, you have a complete disdain for history, that shows that you are not a very learned person at all. Second, you post so many “facts“ that you obviously make up on the spot. An educated person takes the time to learn about a subject before they speak out on it. Your unabashed approach to flaming posts on a subject you claim to be interested in tells the world that you are completely uninterested in education on any subject.
Furthermore, an educated person would know that the level of education a person has, in no way affects that person’s ability to be remain untouched by the recession. Many people from high school drop-outs to PhD candidates have had their lives destroyed by the greed of investment bankers and corporate entities across the globe, combined with a lack of governmental oversight across multiple administrations on both sides of the aisle.
Even the people that have good jobs that are in no way endangered by the recession have felt it. As the cost of every single item a consumer uses has risen dramatically.
The only way that you have not felt the recession, is if you in fact, have no bank account, use no credit cards, never had a job to lose, and live off the government at the expense of the taxpayers.

06/05/2010 01:21 PM


Back in the old days they did not have the TIRE SPLITTER on the front of the cars.

I believe Dale and Bobby along with many of the other “Old School” drivers would have RESPECTED Kyle for his Drive. Have you watched some of the places Dale put his car trying to win. Watch some of the old races and watch these drivers along with Tim Richmond beat and bang off each other trying to get the advantage and the win. Kyle drivers more in their style then anyone else on the track today.

I will agree Kyle needs to work on his “people skills”.

06/05/2010 01:39 PM

@dansmom – I have refrained in the past from commenting on some of your posts, but you have just showed a side of yourself that is unspeakable. I hope somebody knocks you off your pedestal and educates you of real world reality real soon.

As for the story line, it looks like it may be a while before Kyle actually changes his ways and demeanor in front of fans and the media. In the mean time, Kyle Busch is just going to be Kyle Busch. Like him, dislike him, or completely hate him! Fact is, he’s good for NASCAR right now. People need somebody to boo and yell and scream at. Kevin Harvick also fits the mold of throwing fits in the car and throwing his guys under the bus on the radio. I do like Kevin by the way, I’m just pointing out a related factoid.

06/05/2010 02:47 PM

Old Kyle – New Kyle. The kid can flat out drive a race car. He is on his way to one of many championships.

06/07/2010 12:21 PM

AMEN Shoeman!! It took awhile but the kid grew on me and I really like him.

I guess maybe being a Sr. fan had a little to do with it.And like WC , I agree..I think there would have been a little respect from the older guys like Sr.

VERY few guys today drive in that “stick er in there” and “rubbin’s racin’“style. Tony and Kyle are 2 that still do IMHO.
And YES, he IS a good driver AND a good racer.

He wants to win!He tries to win EVERY time out!Move over or be moved if you’re holding me up!
I dont know about some of you BUT I like that in a driver.

Granted, the people skills do need work yet but that will come with maturity.

Dans Mom…I havent ever responded to one of your posts before either but…you are delusional.

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