The Frontstretch: Getting Over Kyle Busch: You May Hate Him, But He Sure Can Drive A Race Car by Tommy Thompson -- Wednesday July 9, 2008

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Getting Over Kyle Busch: You May Hate Him, But He Sure Can Drive A Race Car

Thompson In Turn 5 · Tommy Thompson · Wednesday July 9, 2008


It has almost become amusing to hear so many people who collectively dislike NASCAR’s Kyle Busch find new ways to both express their dislike for him on a personal basis, yet accurately recognize that the young man is truly a phenomenal talent behind the wheel of a race car. Of course, all the blame for putting race fans in this uncomfortable position rests squarely on the shoulders of the 23 year old Las Vegas native. If he would simply quit winning so much — and often times in such spectacular fashion — fans wouldn’t feel the need to enumerate on their negative feelings towards the Sprint Cup points leader.

But Busch has been winning, to the tune of six races in eighteen starts this year, while leading the Sprint Cup point standings by a healthy 182 points. And as a result, we have all heard the assessments of the younger Busch brother by fellow fans — and perhaps by you. Usually, the negative opinions offered on the driver that nicknamed himself Rowdy go something like, “I don’t like the little _______ (insert jerk, punk, creep, or an even a stronger derogatory insult to describe a disrespectful young man), but I have to admit, he sure can drive a race car.” Only because the brash Busch continues to succeed is there even a need to include the disclaimer concerning his driving prowess; otherwise, it would be perfectly acceptable for a fan to state their opinion that they find Kyle Busch to just be a jerk.

In a backhanded sort of way, that is actually a high compliment to the youngest driver to ever win a NASCAR Cup race. So impressive has Kyle Busch’s first half of the 2008 NASCAR season been, that even those that are predisposed not to like him cannot ignore his exceptional talent behind the wheel. He just won’t allow it.

And I have to tell you, I am amused by folks that are in this predicament. In fact, it is only correct to say that I am laughing with them and not at them… for I find myself in very much the same pit stall. But like many others, I have been there before — where immaturity has blurred my opinion of a driver with immediate championship potential.

To me, it is simply a Busch thing. During older brother Kurt Busch’s early years with Roush Racing, I was already leery of the young man rumored to be as good as his Big Brother, who was then honing his skills back home in Las Vegas in the bullring.

But based on Kurt’s own behavior, I had reason to be worried about anything Busch. After impressing the NASCAR world with his runner-up finish in the Craftsman Truck Series point standings in 2000, Kurt was fast-tracked to the now-Sprint Cup Series the following year — and he took the series by storm. In five years, Kurt scored 14 wins and the Series championship in 2004, but had built a shabby reputation of being arrogant, disrespectful, and an all-around difficult young man to like along the way — much like his little brother has to this point.

Why have both turned out the same way? Well, Kyle and Kurt Busch, in my mind, lend credence to the theory that “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.” The tree, in this case, is their father Tom Busch, of whom I wrote of in a Frontstretch article in July of last year titled Kyle Busch Still Has Some Growing To Do. In short, I believe that maybe too much emphasis may have been put on racing during the brother’s formative years, and not enough put forth on mundane parenting lessons on such abstract concepts as manners, respect, and humility.

Like most, I prefer to see hard-working, polite, and congenial young men progress and become successful in their careers. And to be sure, there is no shortage of them already in the Sprint, Nationwide, and Craftsman Truck Series, but very few of these drivers have shown the level of skills behind the wheel that first Kurt and now Kyle own. And in the end, I have come to the conclusion that — personality be damned — when one breaks down the sport to its lowest common denominator, driving the race car is what’s more important than anything else.

And driving race cars, in fact, is something that no one can dispute Kyle Busch is extremely good at. In fact, I cannot recall ever seeing anyone at any time in my almost 40+ years of following motorsports better than the younger Busch has been this season. Since the drop of the green flag in February — when Busch finished 2nd in both the Craftsman Truck and Nationwide events while recording a 4th place finish in the Daytona 500 — the youngster’s been on top of his game, a man on a mission who was once in contention to lead the points in all of NASCAR’s top three series. Maybe it’s a bold statement, but I would challenge anyone to consider the on-track results of the youngster’s 2008 season to date against other prolific winners in the sport and argue differently.

Kyle Busch has been impressive in all three of NASCAR’s top series, posting six Cup, four Nationwide, and two Craftsman Truck Series wins this season.

Certainly, Busch has the equipment to get the job done week in, week out; those Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas are top notch. But hey, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin have them also — and where are their 6 wins, 11 Top 5, and 12 Top 10 finishes in the first 18 races of the Sprint Cup season? Stewart — certainly destined to be considered among the greatest American drivers in history — has five wins in the Nationwide Series in just seven starts driving that stout JGR No. 20, but Kyle has also picked up four victories in the series: one in the No. 20, two in the No. 18 Gibbs team entry, and another in the Braun Racing No. 32 to boot.

No, it’s more than just good equipment… it is very much Kyle Busch as well. Heck, he doesn’t need to be in Joe Gibbs Racing equipment to perform, as verified by his six Top 10s and two wins in the Craftsman Truck Series in eight starts driving for Billy Ballew. Just give Busch good equipment — enough to get by — and he’ll make it look great all on his own. To me, that is surefire indication that a driver is more than just adequate.

But stats aside, all one needs to do is watch Kyle Busch race with an objective eye. He is there to win, if it is at all possible, and his charges from the back to the front of races are simply amazing at times. Similarly, on countless occasions, I have witnessed Busch squeeze between two competitors to execute a pass when no opening seemed available to him. The young man gives no quarter on the race track to anyone; this season, he’s redefined the often overused term “hard charger.”

With the second half of the Sprint Cup season still to come, it will be interesting to see if Busch is able to maintain his present level of performance. The logical side of me says that it just isn’t possible, not in this day and age of parity in the sport. However, so far in 2008 Kyle Busch has defied what I considered logical. So, I am going to just observe and learn to better appreciate the talented — even if somewhat abrasive — young driver.

and what about Busch’s personality deficits? Well, they are still there; maybe someone will work with him on them. But who knows, possibly the brashness and arrogance that some of us see in him is more than meets the eye. Perhaps it is a false impression, and actually is an exceptionally high level of confidence and self-assuredness that allows him to be the extraordinary driver that he has become at such a young age.

Either way, I’m not going to miss a good show just because the popcorn is too salty. And neither should you.

And… that’s my view from Turn 5.

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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
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©2000 - 2008 Tommy Thompson and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

07/09/2008 07:35 AM

Sir, your blabber mouth about how good kyle is has taken a new level of cockiness second only to bush! If you kyle fans weren’t, like him , so insecure. No one has doubted his talent, but talent alone, and making excuses for him (blaming his father), will NOT change the facts!
He is a snot nosed punk and he will, just as his brother did, find the person that will MAKE him grow up!
As to his perceived greatness, remember this is only one season, and toyota has a bought and paid for advantage (10 Hp., worth about 3/10s per lap)that will be overcome at some point! As for lack of wins out of Stewart, He is a Chevy man, enough said!!
Now, for you and all kyle fans alike, just enjoy his success and keep you mouths shut as you are NOT going to change the majority of fans minds…..he is STILL a snot-nosed punk!!

Travis Rassat
07/09/2008 08:48 AM

Great article and an interesting perspective, Tommy.

I actually hope that Kyle doesn’t end up like Kurt is now. Kurt’s trying so hard to be the likeable good guy, he comes off as phony and unnatural to me.

07/09/2008 10:40 AM

I didn’t like Kyle Busch when he first started racing in the cup series, but how can you not be amazed at his driving. I think he has brought the emotion back into Nascar and I love the crazy reaction from JR Fans. I actually am a Jr Fan, but cannot believe the negative and biased opinions and reviews. I keep asking – did I watch the same race? Still love Jr., but got to love Kyle for his tenacity. As for Kurt Busch – he is at least trying to change his image and mend his ways. Hope that someone gives me a second chance – give him a break.

07/09/2008 11:11 AM

As for lack of wins out of Stewart, He is a Chevy man, enough said!!…..OH NO don’t stop there JOHN boy.PLEEASE tell me MORE!!!!
so you think ole smoke is holding back because he don’t want to win in a toyota????

Annie Mack
07/09/2008 11:19 AM

When Interstate Batteries wrote an open letter to New England fans, I nearly choked on my coffee. So now Toyota has to tie a pork chop around Kyle’s neck to get the dog to play with him? This is about money, folks. The majority of fans are not buying Kyle Busch merchandise. Nuff said.

07/09/2008 11:29 AM

Johnboy is obviously a Jr. fan.

I’ve already said this a couple of time this week, so once more won’t matter a bit.

With the exception of the one race in which Jr. backed into a win. He has found ways in the first 18 races to lose.

Kyle Busch, on the other hand, has found the way to win six of those 18 and with a little luck, it could have been 8 of them.

07/09/2008 12:52 PM

I dunno, Tommy.

Clearly, it takes talent to win at the Cup level. To win six races in half a season is very impressive. Even with Toyota having snookered the Daytona Beach airheads out of a couple of dozen extra horses. But I’d have to say that Kyle is a different kind of talent, and one that may not have a long run.

Some folks have called Kyle the New Intimidator. I disagree. He’s the Terrifier, not the Intimidator. When drivers see the Wild Child coming, they dive for cover and pray he gets by without wrecking them. In the few shots TV showed us of him slashing his way through the field at Daytona, it was almost funny to see how far other drivers went to get out of his way.

Problem with that is, it gets old. People get tired of getting out of his way; tired of being frightened by his recklessness. Of him acting like he’s the only car on the track. Of the his give/take equation being lopsided on the “take” side and light on the “give.” And, of course, his aggressive, erratic, “wreckers-or-checkers” maneuvers occasionally do collect other drivers. Patience will run out. Somebody will take the Shrublet to Wall School. And after he’s kissed the concrete good and hard a couple of times, we’ll see what it does to his banzai style of driving.

07/09/2008 03:42 PM

Excuse me …facon325 but isnt this sport called racing??? if the other so called racers want to move out of the way…then I guess we should go ahead and give WILDTHING the championship now!!….you really cleared things up for me though…I was wondering how Rowdy has got from the back to the front in all these races…the other guys are just pulling over for him!!!!

07/09/2008 04:26 PM

I hope as do some others here that Kyle doesn’t end up like Kurt.

Nascar needs more drivers like Kyle. I do believe he is insecure with himself/appearance. He takes it all out on the track. ‘I will show you attitude’ So any people like to make fun of him because of his looks alone. This fuels the fire.

07/09/2008 04:31 PM

As for Kyle’s driving style and people getting out of his way, I am surprised there is any racing at all with Harvick doing the same, Pablo. R Gordon etc…

People just keep spewing this crap. Excuses Excuses Excuses.

Kyle has been in th echase twice already if you didn’t notice. I wonder when the ‘other drivers’ whoever they are are going to put there foot down and stop Kyle. HAHA not.

Concrete walls are now safer barriers. Go gettem kyle!!!!!

07/09/2008 04:34 PM

Johnboy? You sound really silly throwing out numbers like 10 horsepower and 3/10ths a lap. Not even going to address the problems cause you made it up.

07/09/2008 05:10 PM

What people are tired of getting out of Kyle Busch’s way?If there are any drivers in cup who would be so afraid of a driver that they would give up points or the win, then they need to go find another career. Seems like the drivers are giving him a pat on the back. Sure would like to know where falcon325 gets his telepathy from? I don’t think Busch took out anyone on his way to the front after falling to the back of the field.

07/09/2008 08:26 PM

Just for the record….a Jr. fan i ain’t!!!!!

07/15/2008 02:37 PM

Kyle has given me the most enjoyable season since we lost Dale. I’m glad that SOME people are at least acknowledging his talent. That he irriates the Jr. Nation is just an added plus. Hope he stays just the way he is because it definitely makes racing interesting again. He is dominating when people said NO ONE can dominate anymore.

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