Woody: Busch Better Heed Burton
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
I’ve followed Jeff Burton’s career ever since he ran his first Cup race in 1993 and I’ve never known a more likable, mild-mannered and easy-going driver.
He has a reputation as a racer who takes his lumps and never complains.
That’s why it was so stunning to see Burton heatedly confront Kyle Busch following Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Burton got in Busch’s face, shaking his finger. When he turned to walk away Busch said something, causing Burton to whirl around and light into him again.
Busch wisely buttoned his lip and didn’t say anything else.
I think what we saw was an indication that Burton is fed up with being NASCAR’s punching bag, the driver who keeps getting pushed around and never pushes back.
Also I suspect it was an indication that Kyle is a young driver whose act is getting old. Maybe he’s been reading too many of his press clippings comparing his aggressive driving style to Dale Earnhardt’s.
I knew Dale Earnhardt.
Dale Earnhardt was a friend of mine.
Kyle, you’re no Dale Earnhardt.
Before driving like Earnhardt Busch first has to earn the respect that Earnhardt held among his fellow drivers, and Kyle’s got a long way to go. I imagine that was the message that Burton gave young Busch the other night, in no uncertain terms.
Frankly – and in some defense of Busch – I didn’t think his bump of Burton was all that bad. But it was the latest in a growing list of incidents on and off the track – like the nonsense the week before when Busch threatened teammate Denny Hamlin.
Burton finally reached his breaking point with Busch. He may not be the only one.
We’ve seen it happen before with other drivers, most notably with Kyle’s big brother Kurt. We all know what happened when Kurt finally pushed driver Jimmy Spencer too far – he got a punch in the nose.
For a moment last Sunday night I thought Kyle might in for a similar attitude adjustment from Burton. Jeff may be mild-mannered, but you get the feeling that he’s not the sort that you want to push too far.
There’s no questioning the talent of Kyle Busch. At his young age he’s already among the best on the track and could be on his way to all-time greatness. And let’s be honest – from a media standpoint he stirs the pot and keeps things interesting.
But he’d better care careful or he’s going to make things TOO interesting for his own good.
If he teed off nice-guy Jeff Burton the way he did, what’s going to happen when he angers a REAL hot-head?
If Kyle keeps going the way he is, we may find out before long.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments