The Frontstretch: Younger Busch Deserves a Break by Thomas Bowles -- Monday June 5, 2006

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Younger Busch Deserves a Break

Thomas Bowles · Monday June 5, 2006


For Kyle Busch, the weekend at Dover wasn’t as much about the finish as it was about getting through both races without pissing anyone off. Fresh off a 25 point penalty and probation for throwing a HANS device at Casey Mears at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, the younger of the Busch brothers had fallen to 10th in the Nextel Cup standings, and the latest in a continuing string of on-track incidents left him on the short end of the stick with several of his competitors in the garage area. Don’t think for a second Busch isn’t aware of the shaky ground upon which he stands. Notice how the second-year driver finished 5th Sunday, but was more concerned after the race with whether or not Matt Kenseth was upset with him for possibly holding the 17 car up a little too long in it’s march to the front.

Truth be told, the criticism coming at the young man from the media, the garage area, and the fans has evolved from a slow murmur to a deafening roar. It seems that one more mistake is all that’s going to be needed here to send Busch in front of the firing squad. Forget innocent until proven guilty; Busch is going to spend the rest of the year trying to avoid doing anything where he could be framed as guilty.

Well, count me out of that lynch mob. I don’t want a part in it anymore.

My turning point with Kyle Busch has nothing to do with Kyle himself, or with racing. It has to do with a hand in poker.

As most 25-year-old guys like to do nowadays, I’m a part of a weekly poker tournament with my buddies from in and around New York City (which, I’ve discovered recently is a favorite pastime of many of your NASCAR favorites"¦but that’s another story). Every week, about six to eight of us put in 20 bucks a pop and take part in a rowdy three hour tournament of Texas Hold "˜Em.

Now, the ringleader of this tournament, the guy that has it all together is a guy we like to jokingly call Head. Head’s one of the most organized, upfront, and mature people for his age you’ll ever meet when he wants to be—- one conversation with him and you’ll think you’re talking to a 35 year old. Only thing is, he’s 24. Head’s also the best poker player I know"¦if luck wasn’t involved, he’d come out on top in our game anytime.

Well, a couple of weeks ago everyone got knocked out pretty quickly, and it was Head versus one of the more "inexperienced" players at the table in a grudge match to decide it all. Not only is this “Mr. Inexperience” notorious for blatantly making bad calls, but he has a history of getting himself into situations where odds dictate he should lose, only to get saved by pure luck of the cards. Now, you don’t have to know much about poker to know that "inexperience" doesn’t matter when it comes to this card game"¦you could win with pretty much any hand if all you have is a little bit of luck on your side.

Luck, as fate might have it, is exactly what struck gold again for Mr. Inexperience on this night. Throwing all his chips in with a far better hand, Head thought he was in great shape; there was but one card in the deck that would send him packing on this night.

Of course, that card promptly came on the "River," the last card you pull from the deck in a hand of Hold "˜Em. Mr. Inexperience had pulled another winning lottery ticket straight out of a hat.

In a perfect world, you’d think Head would just shake this guy’s hand and move on"¦I mean, it’s not this other guy’s fault the cards were dealt the way they were, right? That’s not what happened though. Head was so angry he took all the cards and threw them with such force up in the air it took half an hour to find them all. He then cursed at everyone, slammed his beverage into the ground, gathered his jacket, and promptly stormed off, slamming the door behind him.

What’s my point? Here was a 24-year-old who wouldn’t be caught dead doing anything stupid, losing his cool in the heat of the moment because he wasn’t mature enough to do any better. Bad luck got the better of him.

Subtract three years, add driving talent, 100 times the pressure, and a boatload of expectations, and you’ll find yourself in Kyle Busch’s shoes. How would you react at 21 if you had bad luck handed to you on a silver platter with a winning car? How would you react at 20 if your brother was attacked mercilessly by the media about a crime it turns out he didn’t commit?

I’m not saying that age justifies actions caused by immaturity. Clearly, Kyle Busch has made mistakes, and he will certainly be paying for them in the form of boos from the stands and cutting remarks from his racing peers for the foreseeable future. I’m just through getting up on my high horse when, at 25, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t find myself walking in Busch’s shoes if the tables were turned and I was the one expected to be perfect.

Sadly for Busch, one article won’t change most people’s feelings; the firing squad is lining up for the next time Kyle causes a ruckus, and they won’t hesitate to shoot. I’m just going to sit back and let someone else fire that gun…because it shouldn’t be fired at all.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


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06/05/2006 04:21 AM

Your story describes someone who typically carries himself with maturity who suffered an ‘abberration’ in behavior. Sadly, that isn’t how one could describe Mr. Busch. One can only hope that eventually he will learn to accept responsibility for his childish behavior. Pressure doesn’t ten to bring out the best in people…but it seems to me that it is a necessity for a racer. I tend to put more weight on the fact that, even in the garage, respect from his peers, or lack thereof, tells the true story.

Charlie D.
06/05/2006 04:44 AM

I don’t understand… Are you saying that a kid who misbehaves shouldn’t be disciplined…? That just because he’s a kid he should get away with it?

No my friend… discipline is how you show there is consequences to in-appropriate behavior… it is unacceptable.

The punishment that was handed out to Kyle Busch is designed to do exactly as you mentioned, for him to think before he acts.

Walking on eggshells for more than half the season, one would hope, will teach him to walk softly and think before each step.

Kyle Busch and your card playing friend for that matter, should be admonished by his peers, friends and in Kyle Busch’s, fans and NASCAR.

Your friend… next time you have a game… I would ask him where the new deck of cards were.

Colin Baird
06/05/2006 05:25 AM

This years NASCAR races must be pretty pathetic if this is all you can find to write about.

M. B. Voelker
06/05/2006 06:46 AM

Thanks for your part in calling off the lynch mob.

As a fan of Kyle’s from the moment I first saw the kid being booed in his second Busch start—long before he did anything to create a reputation of his own—that’s all I ask of fans and media.

No one believes that Kyle didn’t deserve a penalty, even a severe penalty, for his actions. But he isn’t doing anything that many, many other drivers, most far his senior in age and racing experience, haven’t done before. Its just that Kyle’s precocious talent has put him in the position where he has to make such mistakes live on national TV instead of in the safe obscurity of a regional series.

People not only need to remember Kyle’s age, they need to remember that he only has 7-8 years of total racing experience and that this is the first time he’s ever run a second year in the same racing series.

Kyle needs to learn better discipline and he needs to develop more maturity, but a little compassion on the part of the fans and media would probably be more productive than the constant badmouthing. After all, any parent knows that if a child learns that no matter what he does he can’t do anything right he’ll give up trying.

06/05/2006 08:02 AM

How nice to hear a positive voice! I became a fan of Kyle’s when he started driving in the truck series. I too realize he needs to discipline himself, but who didn’t at age 21? I had to supress an ironic chuckle yesterday at Darrell Waltrip’s comment…”ton of talent and ton of temper” – I remember a young Waltrip entering the series. Everyone in the garage area knew when he was angry too – but electronic media and coverage didn’t exist so that the world knew it too!

06/05/2006 08:57 AM

There are many drivers who would love to have his ride and be mature about it. We were garaged next to him when he ran some ARCA shows, he was a punk even then! He has always had superior equipment. His ego is growing with his age!!

06/05/2006 08:59 AM

Some of your readers do not seem to understand that this article is to point out how much presure is on a driver, not written as a direct comparison. Do they stop and THINK how difficult it can be for a person who has yet to experiance such life situations? I wonder how well the critics react when they lose two dollars in the coke machine? I believe the dangerous person is Tony Stewart. His out of contol temper could have killed a driver a Daytona this year, and Nascar did nothing.

John M
06/05/2006 09:34 AM

I was at the race yesterday and nobody got near the boo’s as the Busch (league) brothers. Times have changed but even today there are people who care about character. With great position comes great responsibility. Big ego’s have killed the reputations of many leaders, from Napoleon and Patton to Bobby Riggs and now the Busch brothers. All of these people have skill, but who cares if you are a jerk? You want us to show restraint? Sure, if I see that either of these guys can change, but that seems to be like asking a scorpion not to sting you. It’s just beyond their control.

James M
06/05/2006 11:31 AM

This is one of those topics where it is really easy to see both sides of the argument. I like the analogy and the intended message of your story- everybody, even those who are even tempered and mature, loses their cool at some point. I’ll immediately state that Kyle Busch is not exactly one of my favorite drivers. However, I think that he is very talented and he has certainly shown that he can get the job done and, as a result, is deserving of the opportunities he has been given thus far. Despite his run for the ‘04 Busch title, I don’t think a lot of fans had high expecations for his first Nextel cup season, in which he ended up winning two races and taking ROTY honors (although, that should have been Carl Edwards but for his early promotion to the 99 in 04).

Does he come across as cocky, and maybe as a bit of a jerk? Sure. I’ll give him this – at least he backs it up on the racetrack. Has he done some boneheaded things? Absolutely. However, compared to other pro sports where famous and not so famous athletes have been convicted of such things as rape and murder, a 21 year old kid flinging a hans device after getting crashed out of a race doesn’t seem like such a big deal to me. He should not have done it, don’t get me wrong, but it seems like such a minor thing, and yet, he’s getting crucified in the media for it.

06/05/2006 11:42 AM

Your example with “Head” is not even remotely close to the Kyle Busch situation. He has had a consistent pattern of being a smartbutt, undisciplined little jerk since his Busch series ride. I remember when he was battling Truex for a win, lost to Truex and then ran to his hauler to avoid the media. This little boy needs to mature. He hasn’t changed since he came on to the NASCAR scene.

If you are going to play at the highest tier then you need to be an example setter not the one that becomes the example. Grow up Kyle! That goes for any major sports figure. We’ve got young kids that look up to these guys.

06/05/2006 12:27 PM

If this was late-night poker in someone’s living room, yes, I’d say cut Kyle some more slack. But this is professional racing at its highest level, and if Kyle or any other kid his age can’t summon the maturity to act like a professional, maybe Cup racing isn’t where he needs to be right now. I also wish the FOX network and SPEED channel would stop trying to shove him in our faces all the time. For a lot of us, that only serves to annoy even further. I’m certainly not going to LIKE Kyle the more he’s forced on me!

M. B. Voelker
06/05/2006 02:16 PM

As a fan of his I didn’t approve of Kyle being moved up so fast. But Rick Hendrick didn’t consult me about the idea.

06/05/2006 03:35 PM

Big difference between poker and 180 mph racing on national tv. Unfortunately for Kyle he inherited the title of “That Jerk Kurt’s Younger Brother Kyle”. If I had a brother like Kurt I would do everything in my power to show how much different and yes, better I am than him. But noooooo, Kyle wants us to give him a break for being another jerk by using his immaturity as a crutch. Well Kyle, Nextel Cup is the big league, it is for adults, so when you decide to grow up we might start giving you a cheer or two, but until then, sorry pal, it’s boos for you.

06/05/2006 07:45 PM

I would be willing to give Kyle a break if he wouldn’t cont to make the same mistakes time and time again. He has even had some veterens of the sport try to talk to him like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. But it just seems like it goes through one ear and out the other. Hopefully he will try to finish the rest of the season without making the mistakes that he is making now. If he does that the fans will soon layoff him a little. And FCH layoff the out of control temper from Tony. The guy didn’t win 2 Cup Championship by being out of control.

06/05/2006 09:37 PM

I just love how all of you act like you know what it takes to be in cup, or to win championships (“Tony didnt win 2 championships by being out of control” yeah right, just a little insight for ya, people move out of the way as to not get killed by someone when they are going 190 mph. Tony’s a bully), or even to be kyle busch….what a joke! I am a huge Jeff Gordon fan and think he is the best out there, both on and off the track, but did you see what he did after kenseth dumped him at bristol? Not to mention, Nascar’s role in that one. (made him go to pit road instead of the garage, where he was supposed to go). Point is, he’s got nascar to deal with, owners to deal with, the car, other drivers, his personal life, and god knows what else. Pressure, pressure, pressure. Lay off, most of you would crumble in his situation. I think most people who respond to him negetively, are just jealous, and view him as an easy target cause he’s “just a kid”.

Terry Mcdonald
06/05/2006 10:24 PM

Right on

06/05/2006 10:50 PM

Lets see, to name just a few of Stewarts explosions. He punches out a reporter. Gets sideways on his own and blames the car next to him, so he turns that driver around in traffic at 190 MPH crashing him (this right after ole hot head cries that he is afraid someone will get killed. Maybe he wanted to make his fear come true.) then a few weeks latter he drives a guy into the wall along with himself that Stevie Wonder can see is intentional. And for those who cannot remeber or choose not to, in those championship years his crew cheif had to speek for him after the races because ole Tony was often in such a rage. All these things and many more have happened because when anything does not go his way he goes off his nut. Have you ever heard of a sponsor putting there driver on probation because of his temper? Thats what Home Depot did to Stewart. His anger has a record you could play all night. He is a great driver, no doubt, it is just that a bigger out of control hothead cannot be found. Face the facts Mellisa.

JC Sauls
06/07/2006 12:37 AM

About 3-4 years ago, everyone hated a guy named Tony Stewart. He got as many or more boos than Kyle and the media and all fans gave him nothing but grief. Now he’s everyone’s darling. Isn’t it strange how the tidal wave against Kyle started with Tony naming him out at Daytona. I am a Kyle Busch fan now and will be 5 years from now. A majority of the folks who hate him now will be singing his praises 5 years from now.

06/07/2006 10:17 AM

I wouldn’t count on that, JC.


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