Last year after suffering a career threatening injury at Daytona in an Xfinity Series race and after the birth of his first child, it appeared a new Kyle Busch had emerged. NASCAR’s bad boy seemed to have gone through a period of reflection and maturation that brought along with it a new perspective. And along with that new seemingly new mature and more mellow Kyle Busch came a series championship, his first in any of NASCAR’s top divisions, let alone in the Sprint Cup Series.
No, it simply turns out he was just having unprecedented success, and well, everyone can be pleasant when they’re winning. Kyle, ala Cam Newton, is fun, engaging and a treat for his sport when things are going well, as demonstrated in the viral video (carefully orchestrated by his wife Samantha of course) after his Martinsville win where Busch signed a hat for a fan while they were sitting in traffic leaving the race. But Busch, also ala Newton, is an absolutely terrible loser and a horrible example to young fans everywhere. Petulant child and spoiled brat are the first words that come to mind.
The winning of 2015 had just been so much that we sort of forgot who Kyle Busch truly was. We allowed the wool to be pulled over our eyes and to be convinced that Busch had changed, much like Cam Newton had done.
But when the times weren’t so good, both went back to being, in the immortal words of Dennis Green, “Exactly who we thought they were”.
Busch’s rap sheet is well known in NASCAR circles, and arguably, it’s well known outside of the NASCAR world.
Whether its winning the first Car of Tomorrow race (granted, he’s right, those cars were awful) and proceeding to trash the car in victory lane instead of celebrate his win, or it’s melting down on his pit crew, or NASCAR officials, Kyle Busch has a long list of actions and deeds that would cause even the likes of Rasheed Wallace or Lou Piniella to want to grab him by the shoulders and ask him what was wrong with him. I’m sure even Tony Stewart looked at Kyle and thought, “Geez man, you need to chill out”.
While considered perhaps the most talented driver in the garage, many pointed to Busch’s volatile nature as the primary reason that despite having won 28 races in his first nine seasons, Busch had failed to finish any higher than 8th in points.
Struggles in the chase were attributed to the taxation placed on his team and crew chief for having to endure the headache and stress that Kyle Busch was for 9 consecutive months. It got so bad with his first team, none other than Rick Hendrick, that Hendrick let the uber talented, but uber temperamental Busch leave his stable and head over to rival team Joe Gibbs Racing and, Chevrolet allowed him to join the Toyota camp.
Busch’s ways not only did not fit in at all with the Rick Hendrick model, they wore then crew chief Alan Gustafson out to the point he simply couldn’t take dealing with the youngster anymore. It’s amazing he was willing to take on another 20 year old prodigy after Jeff Gordon retired, though, clearly, Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch are not cut from the same cloth when it comes to personalities.
In 2011 everything really came to a head with Kyle Busch, as he not once, but twice, utilized his car (or truck) in extra curricular activity under yellow as a weapon, and then additionally proceeded to endanger lives on pit road by using his vehicle in such a fashion there as well.
First was the Kevin Harvick incident at Darlington, one that regular Bert Show listeners may even be aware of due to Bert’s affinity for Harvick and Harvick’s appearance on the show where he discussed their disdain, and their wive’s disdain, for each other.
Busch not only deliberately wrecked Kevin Harvick after the yellow flag flew and dangerously turned him head on into the wall ruining his night, he also risked ruining the night of many other drivers in the field by sending Harvick across the track. But Busch didn’t stop there, as shown in the above video. When confronted by Harvick afterwards, Busch wanted no part of manning up to Harvick, instead, he chose to recklessly push a 3500 pound racecar aimlessly along pit road where many innocent pedestrians were present. Busch of course had no regard for the safety of those people, Busch was doing what Busch does, seeing red, and reacting, with no concerns for anyone else.
Unfortunately, the Harvick situation wasn’t even the worst transgression of 2011. While running a support race in a lower series of NASCAR (still a heated debate over this practice) Busch reached even a new low for him.
While Busch was just there racing for wins and trophies, though some would argue bullying, against lesser competition, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series veteran Ron Hornaday was racing for a championship as the season was winding down. As sometimes happen in racing, where “rubbing is racing”, Hornaday and Busch got together as seen on the video. While Busch had a right to be agitated, what he did next was beyond deplorable.
What he did to Harvick at Darlington was dangerous, but the speeds were slower and the impact was fortunately lessened and not as directly head on. What Busch did to Ron Hornaday, in yet another case of Busch taking out his frustrations while using his vehicle under caution, was even more dangerous and could have injured Hornaday. But once again, Kyle Busch gave no second thoughts to the well being of others. Once again, Busch saw red, and that was it.
The act was so egregious that sponsor M&Ms pulled their sponsorship for the remaining races of the season and refused to have their name or logos adorn the no. 18 Toyotas for the remainder of the season.
And that brings us to this past Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway where Kyle Busch, fresh off consecutive Sprint Cup wins and dominating the Xfinity Series where for only the second time since Daytona where Busch didn’t race over the course of the weekend.
He bemoaned the fact that neither of the two best cars (alluding to himself and Kyle Larson) won on Saturday, in a typical Kyle Busch whiny kind of way following his second place finish to teammate Erik Jones. So the mood for Busch entering Sunday was already shaky, at best.
Despite having a fast racecar, Busch and his team had problems with tire wear and Busch found the wall early in the race. The team recovered however, only for Busch to be spun out at a later junction in the event. The team recovered from this too, as well as two different pit road speeding penalties incurred by Busch and still found themselves competitive and in the mix as the race passed halfway. It was then that the race’s seventh caution flag flew, and it was the fourth time Kyle Busch was a part of it. This time though, there would be no recovery.
Busch, as evidenced by his comments after the race, was clearly angry and irate following the second tire issue that sent his car careening into the wall. In a hurry to get the car behind the wall, and get himself out of it so he could undoubtedly go pout somewhere and probably throw a few things, Busch took an abnormal route to get behind the wall in the garage area and bring the car to the attention of his team.
Busch’s desired location to park his racecar happened to be one where a congregation of fans had gathered, but apparently this was of no concern to Busch as he entered the area behind the wall.
Obviously, one can find plenty of fault with the woman herself as she was not exactly grouped with the other fans in the area, so I’m not downplaying her role in the matter, and as a fan, you are responsible for being aware of your surroundings and staying out of the way of the cars. However, the driver too has a responsibility to be aware of THEIR surroundings and to be cognizant of spectators, crewmen, reporters and any number of other people, or objects, that may come into their pathway in the garage area. In this situation, it appears both dropped the ball.
But here is where this is a problem for Kyle Busch. His reputation precedes him. When your rap sheet reads like his, you don’t get the benefit of the doubt. His angry comments following the race where he said, “I’m sick and tired of coming here because it sucks to race”, certainly don’t paint the picture of someone in control of their emotions, and certainly do nothing to dispel the notion that Busch entered the garage area ticked off and in his typical aloof and of no concern with anyone else state of mind.
Was the woman in a place she shouldn’t have been? It would appear that way. However, while she was behind a “rope” of sorts, perhaps indicating she shouldn’t be there, let’s not forget that Busch drove straight through that rope. He didn’t enter this area behind pit wall in the normal and designated manner. Could that be because of the damage to his car, or the convenience factor? Sure it could. But going against the norm should mean he was even more cognizant of his surroundings, as doing the unexpected might leave some people not prepared for his actions. Again, he has a responsibility too.
It’s like in a parking lot a supermarket or shopping mall, even if the pedestrian has darted out from a car in the middle of the parking lot, or is crossing somewhere that seems not be designated for that, as the driver of the large, potentially deadly, vehicle, the driver has a responsibility too. Because ultimately, the driver hits the pedestrian, not the other way around.
So while Busch certainly wasn’t aiming to hit anyone, he certainly wasn’t doing enough not to. Once again, Busch’s anger and frustration boiled over to the point that he had zero concern for the well being or safety of anyone else.
I’ve heard the argument that, “If this was any other driver, it wouldn’t be a story”. This is incredibly weak. Because it wasn’t “any other driver”, and it’s never been (at least not to my knowledge though I wouldn’t be surprised if there were past incidents) “any other driver”. And that’s not a coincidence. There’s a reason things like this happen to someone like Kyle Busch and not to other drivers. It’s because they don’t let them happen.
For Busch, I’m curious if a penalty is forthcoming. Earlier I mentioned that Bristol was only the second time since Daytona that Busch failed to win an Xfinity Series race or Sprint Cup race over the course of the weekend. The last time this happened was of course at California where Busch’s anger resulted in him leaving California lighter in the wallet, and perhaps more importantly, on probation through April 27th.
After cutting a tire down while leading on the last lap of the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, Busch complained that no caution was thrown when his tire blew and tore apart the left front of his car. A caution of course would have frozen the field, and Busch would have been allowed to win the race despite having a flat left front tire and torn up racecar that could not run at race speed. The race stayed Green and eventually Austin Dillon came around Busch off of turn four on the last lap to take the victory, though not without Busch making one last attempt to wreck Dillon as he drove by.
After the race, Busch seemingly forgot, or didn’t care, about who pays his bills and who enables him to drive cars for a living and blew off the mandatory trip to the media center for the second place finisher. I understand being frustrated after losing, but as with Cam Newton after the Super Bowl, you have a job to do. It’s simply a part of it. If you don’t like your job, or can’t handle it, then find a new one. What makes it even worse though is we’re talking about the Xfinity Series where Busch has made a mockery of the season by dominating with his powerful Joe Gibbs Toyotas. He’s there “just for fun”, making childish reactions like this all the worse.
Busch compounded the matter when on Sunday during the Sprint Cup race he accused NASCAR of fixing the race over his team radio. While running second with three laps to go in the Sprint Cup race Busch again had late tire problems and hit the wall. Busch elected against coming to pit road and by staying on the track forced NASCAR to throw a caution.
This of course eviscerated Busch and led to a tirade over the team radio where, due to NASCAR not throwing the caution for him on Saturday, he accused NASCAR of “fixing races”. NASCAR lets drivers and teams get away with criticisms of officiating that are audible to the public far more than other sports, but even they need to draw a line at accusations of blatant fixing of results.
Ultimately Busch received the fine and probation only for failing to meet his media obligations on Saturday, but you have to wonder if his actions Sunday didn’t impact the punishment to at least some degree.
We’re not even a quarter of the way into the 2016 season and already Kyle Busch has had two weekends of classic Kyle Busch behavior.
There’s no denying Busch’s talent, nor his success and his ability to give his sponsors air time. But there’s a line for everyone. Kurt Busch, his older brother no less, is a defending series champion who was twice fired by big time teams with major sponsors who decided the headache simply wasn’t worth it. M&Ms already drew a line once, and Kyle better think twice before approaching it again.
While 2015 Kyle Busch was a champion on and off the track, 2016 Kyle Busch has quickly reverted back to older versions of the defending series champion. For Kyle Busch’s sake and his fans sake, he needs to find last year’s version. Because this Kyle Busch isn’t a champion in any sense of the word.