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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Be Careful What You Wish For… Like it or Not, NASCAR Personality is Back

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.

BOWLES: HAVING A NASCAR VILLAIN TO HATE NEVER FELT SO GOOD

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 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. 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 $5,000 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 Busch email this week. Enjoy.

Q: Surprise, surprise. 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.

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