The Frontstretch: Busch Bashing: Justified Jeers or Just Sour Grapes? by Vito Pugliese -- Wednesday September 8, 2010

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Busch Bashing: Justified Jeers or Just Sour Grapes?

Voice of Vito · Vito Pugliese · Wednesday September 8, 2010


Kyle Busch has had an eventful past few weeks, getting more airtime and mentions than any show on SPEED in what seems to be a constant loop of public disaffection.

In Bristol, he swept all three races in the Camping World Truck, Nationwide, and Sprint Cup Series, a feat that was heralded by many in the media as historic – and by his detractors as hysteric. Along the way, he accomplished the feat by turning a hapless Jennifer Jo Cobb, a less-than-guilty Brad Keselowski, then got in some verbal digs on what was a writhing and wretching David Reutimann that weekend in the media center following his Victory Lane celebration.

The next week, Busch was serenaded by a chorus of less-than-enthusiastic fans at Chicagoland Speedway following his victory in the 225 Truck race, which he noted in his winner’s circle interview – to their continued displeasure.

Not every NASCAR fan has an outright hatred of Kyle Busch. But this little girls’ sign says it all: his brash, unforgiving attitude towards competitors and others around him is starting to wear on more than just a few garage observers.

But the kicker came following last Friday’s Built Ford Tough 225 Truck Series race in Kentucky, where Busch was the object of a “dirty driving” blast by eventual winner Todd Bodine. It was the icing on the cake to a Bristol “diss” we’ve all heard about 1,000 times now, Brad Keselowski’s “ass“essment of Busch following his driver introduction at Bristol Motor Speedway. Clearly, on a public perception level the younger Busch has seen better days, even with his rebellious history of getting fans to rally against him using any means possible.

But what we haven’t heard or seen is a cadre of drivers, team members, or fans who do not sport No. 18 gear rush to the defense of Busch. His prickly demeanor and antagonistic actions to everyone have continually placed the 25-year old driver in a poor light with many in the sport who count the most.

That isn’t to say that Busch isn’t talented or worthy – far from it. We have all seen his talents behind the wheel, and are reminded of it ad nauseum during any Truck Series or Nationwide event where his Truck or car dominates the race. With his 10th win of the 2010 season at Bristol, Busch tied Grand National legend Sam Ard for most wins in a season, and had Busch competed in all the events this year, he would most assuredly be working towards a second consecutive title – or setting up for an epic championship battle with Keselowski.

Beyond that, how many people his age do you know that have started their own racing team and been this successful right off the bat?

Busch is bank rolling the effort largely out of his own pocket – an assertion he made when I spoke with him this April by revealing, “If something happened to me today, I’d have nothing to retire with.” He gets big points for being bold, brash, and ballsy – but seemingly undoes any goodwill just as quickly with the same smarmy attitude and snide remarks that have conspired to derail him in the past. And while the sound bites might be funny, they specifically deflate opportunities to contend and contest championships at the Sprint Cup level.

His quick wit and sharp tongue may serve as a machete to slice through most of the tired and trite answers and soundbites that are routinely regurgitated on a weekly basis in the media center and press releases, but they also conspire to lessen the recognition of his accomplishments and those who have helped to propel him to this success.

Kyle Busch has made no shortage of enemies over the past few weeks, much less his entire career, and that’s eventually going to catch up to him.

Following his unrepentant spinning of Keselowski in the Bristol Nationwide race, Busch took the position that because it was Keselowski, the retaliatory actions he took – for an incident that was no more Keselowski’s doing than either of Carl Edwards’ exploits off the nose of Brad’s Dodges at Atlanta or Gateway – were right and just, simply because it was Brad Keselowski.

The belittling continued following his Sprint Cup victory when Marty Smith of ESPN questioned him regarding racing around Keselowski, to which Busch shot back a terse “who?” when Brad’s name was mentioned. Smith tried to play upon the remark by repeating the Penske driver’s full name, along with the car number, one that did not draw any amusement from Busch.

Those comments preceded the line of questioning regarding the contest with Reutimann in the final laps, when Busch criticized Reutimann for not driving the .533-mile track correctly. Kyle then took issue with a reporter’s response to his answer by reiterating his statement.

“He wasn’t driving the place right, I’m sorry. He fixes how to drive this place, he’ll be right there with me,” which preceded his qualification of a “less formal” comment moments earlier: “Well, I got ‘Oooohhhhh‘ because it’s going to be a ‘big deal _’ in the ‘ media_’ … Jesus …”

I guess you can chalk these incidents up to little more than a coincidence, since I’m referencing it here now. Or would it be irony? Either way, Reutimann offered this response to Kyle’s critique of his performance a couple of days later on Sirius XM NASCAR with host Dave Moody – one that was done while battling a nasty bout with food poisoning race weekend.

“I’m sure in his mind he is, but let’s cut to the chase: he makes a comment like that after the race, he’s not driving my frickin’ racecar and I‘m not driving his,” Reutimann said. “Every driver has to do different things inside their car to make it do what it needs to do because technically a lot of times a car’s not perfect, so you have to do things differently. Sometimes your car won’t do what another guy’s car will.”

“I don’t know if it’s the fact that Superman’s cape was flying out the back when I was behind him, and I couldn’t see what the deal was (as) the reason that I couldn’t pass him. Either way, we ran second. We got beat fair and square, that’s what it came down to. We just got outrun. But again, Professor Busch, maybe he can start a driving school at Bristol and the rest of the field, we can all join in and go. He can show all of us what we‘re doing wrong. I need help.”

“If Kyle says it, it’s gospel. It’s probably the stupidest comment I’ve ever heard anybody say at any given time because everyone’s cars drive exactly the same,” Reutimann added with a tinge of Busch-esque sarcasm. “Everyone’s cars are identical. Nobody’s cars drive any different, so the guy who wins does a phenomenal job and the guy who finishes 43rd is just terrible because every one of the cars are identical. They drive exactly the same.”

Reutimann then conceded what was becoming apparent, and what a growing list of drivers and even more fans are beginning to be more vocal about – an issue with Busch as a competitor.

“It all comes down to the fact that we just don’t like each other very much,” Reutimann said. “It has been awhile. We just don’t like each other, and we agree we don’t like each other and we’re both fine with it.”

What continues to puzzle many is that for Busch, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s one thing if you are disliked for winning a lot – i.e., Jimmie Johnson – but it is quite another when it coincides with intentionally wrecking other drivers, tearing up equipment and displaying little regard or remorse – not even slightly feigned.

Couple that with continued shock and disbelief that others may take offense to your actions and comments, and it illustrates again why Busch has one more barrier to overcome before he will truly contend for a championship and exhibit the qualities of a champion. With the Chase starting following this weekend’s race at Richmond, that is an obstacle unlikely to remove itself anytime soon.

Wednesday on the Frontstretch:
Top 10 Reasons Dale Jr. Didn’t Make The Chase
Did You Notice? … Regular Season Stats DO Lie, Bruton Whines, And Wooing Wal-Mart The Right Way
Mirror Driving: Tony The Tiger, The Quiet Fight (Kahne-Newman), And Dirty Deeds
What Money Can’t Buy, Front Row Is Banking On For The Future
Sprint Cup Power Rankings: Top 15 After Atlanta
Carey And Coffey: Why NASCAR Needs Kyle Busch
The Frontstretch Foto Funnies! Atlanta, September 2010

Contact Vito Pugliese

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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
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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09/08/2010 01:35 PM

List of defenders –

Ricky Craven (TB – said on Sunday he would debate anyone, Kyle is not a dirty driver), Ray Evernham (BK), Jimmy Spencer (both BK and TB), Kyle Petty (TB), Kenny Wallace (TB), Mark Martin (general), Jeff Burton (general – even after dust up earlier this year). I admit he should not have turned JCC, unnecessary drama. That’s my 2 cents.

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
09/08/2010 01:41 PM

Kate –

The TB thing I agre with…I think Todd’s remarks were spurred by a lot of things – had that been Eliott Sadler or Hornaday that went by him, I doubt he’d have had the same remarks. I really don’t see where that was his fault. Todd just lost it. At least Kyle didn’t retort with “that cue-balled headed fool” like Jr did back in the Busch Series in 1998 or 99. That was funny.

09/08/2010 02:26 PM

As a Kyle Busch hater, I’m so glad that he has all this drama in his life and loves to spend all his time in the minor leagues, because as long as he keeps doing that and as long as the drama follows him, he will never win a Sprint Cup title. He will implode in the Chase, just watch and see.

09/08/2010 02:42 PM

The poll about Kyle’s antics being good or bad for the sport is ridiculous! Of course he is good for the sport. He is the ONLY driver who keeps the sport interesting these days. He is outrageous, arrogant, unrepentant, and the best driver on the track. He is the best thing (perhaps the only good thing) that has happened to NASCAR since Dale, Sr. died. And not so coincidentally, he is the driver most like Earnhardt in driving style and temperament. Ironhead was no saint either.

As for Todd Bodine, gimme a break! He whined just like Danica Patrick, “Isn’t there a penalty for that? He got me loose! I lost control of my car. So, Kyle must be a dirty driver.” Sour grapes – you bet!

I hope Kyle wins a bunch of championships. At least it would give the JJ-haters something else to b!tch about for a change. But whether he does or not, he is NASCAR’s Most Valuable Player right now. So, have at it, Kyle!

09/08/2010 03:01 PM

Susan, you say KyBu is the only driver keeping it interesting. You’re entitled to your opinion, but for me, I have stopped watching the trucks and Nationwide races because of the overkill of Kyle. Someone on another site essentially said the same thing as the sign in the little girl’s hands “deal with it”. I do by not watching races, so how is THAT good for the sport?

09/08/2010 03:36 PM

JerseyGirl, you’re here commenting on Kyle, aren’t you? Vito chose to write about him – again. Todd and Brad can’t beat him on the track, so they trash talk him. Jamie M. beat Kyle fair and square Saturday – and didn’t even call him names in Victory Lane! Too bad for you that you missed it.

The bashers are just proving my point. Kyle is a lightning rod for a sport that needs some sparks.

09/08/2010 10:11 PM

KB is the best driver at running over other cars…I would put smoke up against him anyday if we are comparing driving ability lol

09/09/2010 05:31 AM

Love him or hate him, “ROWDY” makes things exciting and is fun to watch. Oh, and his win total just keeps going up. Damn it is going to be hard to decide who to chear for in the CHASE. “ROWDY” or “SMOKE”.

09/09/2010 11:17 AM

Its too bad that Sprout has all that arrogance to go with all that talent, otherwise I could dismiss him as just another cocky kid with just enough talent to make the big show. I won’t deny that he is very talented, but I think that Steve is right…the drama and his stubborn arrogance is going to hold him back. As far as Sam Ard’s Cup-Lite record goes…if Sam had been in Joe Gibbs cars with Joe Gibbs money behind him he would have most likely won more than 10 that season. With all that being said I do have to admit Sprout keeps things interesting.

09/09/2010 12:50 PM

Steve is 100% wrong and is simply guilty of wishful thinking and mindless hate. Tony Stewart used to be fun to watch and cheer for. Since Tony has mellowed (or sold out), his wins have dropped considerably. Now he is just another NASCAR mouthpiece running for points. Jeff Gordon has lost his “refuse to lose” mantra, Tony has lost his edge, some guys never had any. And the best way for the sour grapes drivers to get back at Kyle is to beat him on the track by out-racing him, not in their post-race comments or cheap shots on the track. Good example: Brad called Kyle an arse in pre-race introductions, then got his own arse handed to him by Kyle on the racetrack. Tough talk – nothing to back it up. Shut up and drive, little boys!

09/09/2010 07:15 PM

A final thought for Vito: You pandered to the Kyle-haters with this column, but the fact is that NASCAR fans have never accepted Jimmie Johnson’s 4 championships in a row as a historic accomplishment either. Simply because it was not done by a driver named “Earnhardt.” JJ gets more boos than anybody except Kyle at pre-race intro’s. So you can’t blame the Kyle-bashing on KB’s abrasive personality or his driving style. NASCAR fans are full of hatred and bitterness over the death of Sr. and the failure of Jr. to take his place. And it certainly appears you are one of the mob.

BTW, Reutimann’s driving may be “wretched,” but food poisoning caused him to “retch” at Bristol. Obviously spell-checker is no cure for ignorance. Get a dictionary.

09/10/2010 09:14 AM

Fans Hate “Kyle” ?????
He is one of the Top Ten in Fan Voting for Favorite Driver. Some that are “NOT” Keslowski, Hamlin, Martin, Boyer, Logano, Brother Busch and many others. Go to the races and his Rowdy Truck and Nascar Sales Trailer have some of the longest lines. Sure “YOU” may not like him, but many, many, many of us DO!

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