The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Be Careful What You Wish For... Like It Or Not, NASCAR Personality Is Back by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday May 15, 2008

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Before we get rolling with this week’s questions, I have a question of my own: What’s with all the Kyle Busch hate in NASCAR fandom? I’ve read more than a few columns and message boards this month, as well as receiving a comment or two concerning Busch and the way some race fans view him. And let’s put it this way; they’re not going to come close to asking for his autograph anytime soon. More than likely, most would be more willing to throw their beverage at his car as it entered Victory Lane instead.

Hmm. I gotta be honest; I’m really taken aback by the whole thing.

Now, before I get the obligatory, “he’s a young punk,” or “he’s got an attitude problem,” or “he drives dirty,” responses, let’s think about this rationally for a second. Yes, Kyle is young and brash, and isn’t afraid to swagger down pit road with a cocky air about him just before administering an ass-whoopin’ to the field. OK, I get how such an “ego” problem can rub some the wrong way. But the thing is, most of the greats had the same strut to them — and get the same results. People love to wax poetic about Tim Richmond’s cavalier style, Darrell Waltrip’s propensity for smack talk, and Dale Earnhardt’s win-at-all-cost mentality. You see a correlation here?

And what of all the griping over the last five years that drivers no longer have a personality — at least not one that they’re willing to put on display? You — the fans — wanted personality. You wanted a guy that has no issues with pole vaulting over the “company line;” a driver who refuses to points race, opting to hang it over the edge every lap — from green to checkered.

Well, NASCAR fan, you’ve got one right in front of you. And the best part is, Busch owns it. Right down to the very last smirk.

Kyle Busch, a throwback to NASCAR’s past who’s also thrown himself into Sprint Cup’s Victory Lane a career high three times this season.

Look, I’m not ready to anoint the kid the next David Pearson, and I’m certainly not prepared to draw comparisons between he and Dale Earnhardt (as some have). All I’m saying is we have a throwback on our hands here — an unapologetic, catch-me-if-you-can roadrunner. They don’t come along too often anymore, and when they do, they don’t stay that way long once they’ve hit paydirt.

Love him? Great. Hate him? I don’t agree; but regardless, the sport has always been a tad more enthralling with a villain lurking. Either way, enjoy the anti-driver while you can; for Busch’ll drive a lot different in five years. I can promise you that…

OK, let’s sift through some questions. Here’s your link to me: be nice. And one last thing before we continue: Kyle, Paris Hilton called. She wants her sunglasses back.

Hey, I never said I liked the way he dressed.

Q: Hi, Matt! Sorry about the lost wages on the Derby. I was in the same boat. My question centers around another great racing tradition: The Indianapolis 500. Scott Dixon wins $100,000 for sitting on the pole, which is mind blowing if you think about it.

Daytona qualifying is like Indy in that it is a complicated process that seems to drag on. But I’ve never heard of a dollar amount attached to winning the Daytona 500 pole. Is there prize money to sit on the pole for NASCAR’s crown jewel?
— Barry on the Great Lakes

A: Barry here just managed to squeeze in fendered, open wheel, and no wheel racing all in the same question. Nice! As for the answer, it’s a little bit of yes and no. Yes, the winning driver is awarded $5,500 by Coors Light for winning the Coors Light Pole Award. But no, the Daytona 500 polesitter is awarded no additional monies for winning that particular pole.

See, Coors Light awards 5K and change to every pole winner all season, regardless of race, while the driver that wins the most gets a $100,000 bonus at season’s end. I guess a season’s worth of poles in NASCAR is equal to the one at Indy. So be it.

Catch a walleye for me, Barry.

Q: Matt, I’d like to have an explanation as to why the cars looked like they were driving sideways at Darlington. I have read quotes about it, but have not gotten a clear answer why they are that way. Keep it simple, please! I am not a mechanic and wouldn’t understand a bunch of technical talk. Just a basic answer. Thank you!
— Rachel Head

A: Believe me, Rachel, some of the technical minutia confuses me to the point of delirium — so talking over your head won’t be a problem here. The reason you seek is that teams have pinpointed the rear end housings of the car as an area that NASCAR officials are not quite as focused on (evidently); so they’ve begun turning, or moving the rear end housing, to help the driver’s handling. This gives the car the look you saw at Darlington when they’re coming straight at you, like the rear end is kicked out. This manipulation of the rear end increases downforce generated and helps the car to turn, which has been one of the main sticking points the drivers have had with the new car from the beginning. The downforce thing is key here: that’s what the teams are after. And with that endgoal in mind, you just knew they’d find a way to adjust the cars within a set of rules that basically gives them no room to adjust.

Need more info? My boy Vito Pugliese gave an excellent explanation of this on Tuesday. Check it out here.

And lastly, I feel compelled to sneak in a Kyle Busch email this week. Enjoy.

Q: Surprise, surprise. Kyle Busch shows his backside once again. Wiping fake tears away in front of boo-birds at Darlington, and flipping off a member of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s pit crew before the race even started was real classy. About as classy as the non-apology after the Richmond race. Get over yourself, Kyle!
— Anonymous

A: About as classy as you penning that email — only to leave it unsigned.

I’ll leave with a Prediction for you — the Sprint Open or whatever it’s called now will be a great show. You might want to tune in early and make sure you catch the action, as it may be better than the Feature, even — in spite of the yellow walls.

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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05/15/2008 07:30 AM

Gee! One (1) count em’ Just ONE driver ACTUALLY GETS UP ON THE WHEEL AND RACES FOR POSITION, in each and every race! And people take offense!

Of course Jr. Nation is upset and mad! Kyle is making their boy look SILLY!

M. B. Voelker
05/15/2008 08:05 AM

Let me get this straight, …

When fans boo and call drivers names and generally make is 100% clear that they think little of him its legitimate expression of emotion. When a driver uses sarcastic humor to show the fans exactly what he thinks of their booing, etc. its classless and egotistical.

Double standards anyone?

05/15/2008 08:13 AM

All you protectors of Kyle are probably the same idiots that stand in front of people, push them aside, and generally act as though you own the grandstands at races. Then you get upset and want someone to defend you when someone else has enough of you and punches you out! Kylee deserves whatever he gets!!
And yes M. B., you have it right!!

05/15/2008 08:23 AM

Kyle Busch is a throwback to the old NASCAR drivers. He races hard and takes no prisoners. I am not a “Busch lover,” i.e., fan, just an observer of his style. It is refreshing to see a driver in NASCAR who is his own man and, hopefully, won’t be tamed by sponsors and critical fans. I was amused last week, when DW said he hoped Busch had something good to say in his post-race interview. Who is he kidding? He was the worst to talk trash after the race.

05/15/2008 08:32 AM

Hey johnboy60, you are really talking about the idiots called “Jr. Nation”!!

They are the ones that think they own the track, and the ONLY ones that figure if they don’t get what they want they will litter the racing surface with trash!

Mike In NH
05/15/2008 09:04 AM

I think Kyle is loving all this. Look at all the attention he gets from the press and fans. He remembers the truism that there is no such thing as bad publicity. And he’s great at pushing people’s buttons and getting them to make noise – almost as good at that as in racing a car.

Too bad none of the other drivers have engaged in battle with Kyle the way he’s engaged everyone else – remember how it used to be, with there being two antagonists? He’s going to run roughshod over NASCAR unless someone mans up and stands up against him. Used to be there’d be lots of drivers that would, but I guess today’s variety are too meek.

Ken in Va.
05/15/2008 10:03 AM

We have one old fashioned win at any cost race driver in Kyle Busch. We need more so we can have some really good old time racing. One Rotweiler in a bunch of Poodles does not make a good fight.

05/15/2008 11:54 AM

“One Rotweiler in a bunch of Poodles does not make a good fight”.

Hey Ken in Va., best line I have read in a long long time!

Great writing!

05/15/2008 12:42 PM

Despite Kyle’s public behavior (on and off track), my family will always be fans of his. When my son turned 4, we invited nearly every driver in NASCAR to his birthday party (at his request). Not surprisingly, we got numerous responses in the mail, many very quickly. The best response was a phone call from Kyle’s personal assistant who wanted to let us know that Kyle had plans with his brother that weekend and would be unable to attend. We received a large box of autographed items later that week. Granted, Kyle may not have had anything to do with the decision to call us, but it was a pretty big deal to my son regardless. Although at his age he still has trouble nailing down one favorite driver, Kyle’s name always comes up as “the guy who called us and sent me lots of cool stuff for my birthday”. Kyle sure is publicly playing the villian for all it’s worth, but I’m sure we’ll see a different person a few years from now.

05/15/2008 12:56 PM

Good article. Its about time we got a racer who goes all out on every lap.

Good point about DW, Ed.

No one mentioned (that I’ve have read just yet) that after KB almost spun the Biff, Kyle pulled over and let the 16 go by to get the spot back. ‘Course, the 18 took the spot right back on the next lap. I thought that showed a bit of class from a guy who’s been getting blasted quite a bit lately.

Frank Emm
05/15/2008 01:06 PM

The JR. nation just won t accept that the expected breakout season they were hoping for was not spoiled by Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon but instead by the guy he replaced at Hendrick.We need a couple more drivers like Kyle Busch in Nascar to make races interesting again.

05/15/2008 06:55 PM

Thanks for the comment johnnyboi,my daily nascar read wouldn’t be complete without one of your idiotic posts.

05/15/2008 07:26 PM

Kyle may make me a fan of his someday. I LOVE watching this guy race!

05/16/2008 04:47 AM

I just watched “The Last American Hero”, the story of Jr Johnson’s rise to NASCAR fame. Kyle would blend right in in that time…you’ve got that right.

I may not much like Kyle Busch, but I have to say, it IS refreshing that he doesn’t care, expresses his opinions honestly (even while I roll my eyes, going “Here he goes again!!”). SOOO much better than the bland, PC responses we have seen for so long from so many drivers.

We wanted to see driver’s personalities show through more, NASCAR agreed…and Kyle has a strong personality. Don’t start complaining because you don’t like it…you all LOVE it!! It gives you something to complain about!! LOL

Hey, I didn’t like Dale Sr’s on-track personality, either….but found out, after his death, a lot about the man behind the Intimidator exterior that showed he was a good man. I’m betting the Shrub is a lot different from his on-track, on-TV demeanor, when away from the track.

Ya gotta admit, he gives good show!!

05/16/2008 11:45 PM

Don’t like him. Don’t like him. Don’t like him. But God, it’s good to have someone to “Hate” in NA$CAR again. There might actually be something to “Love” about this sport again.


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