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Woody: Busch Loves Being The Villain – For Now

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 25 2010

Kyle Busch doesn't get the love from NASCAR fans and doesn't seem to mind. Kind of like another driver who is now probably headed to the Hall of Fame. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Every sport needs a villain, and Kyle Busch seems to delight in filling the bill in NASCAR.

Busch is the most exciting racer on the track, and arguably the most talented. He is also the most controversial and cantankerous, the driver that fans and fellow drivers love to loathe.

Kyle’s the best and the worst, all rolled into one.

Busch’s incredible Bristol tripleheader sweep last week earned him a niche in the history book but it didn’t earn him any fans. He went out of his way to rub the boo-birds’ noses in his triumphs, wiping “crybaby” tears from his eyes while taking his trademark stage bow.

The louder they booed, the more Busch beamed.

It was mindful of the incident at Nashville Superspeedway when Busch dashed to bits the valuable trophy guitar in Victory Lane. It was a Busch-league juvenile high-jinx, and Kyle seemed to relish the controversy and savor the attention that it generated.

He thrives on adversity.

There’s no denying Busch’s talent. At 25 he’s as good as anyone and better than most. If he can keep it up he’s destined to go down among the sport’s all-time greats.

But you wonder when his bad-boy act will start to wear thin. Not for the fans, not for the media (as I said, he’s entertaining and keeps the laptops clicking), but for Kyle.

I remember another NASCAR villain, a young hotshot who was as brash as he was gifted. He too was “entertaining,” but he eventually pushed things too far. Back in the 1980’s Darrell Waltrip created a monster that got out of control.

Darrell enjoyed what he called “stirring the pot,” by keeping himself embroiled in some sort of controversy. He feuded with NASCAR. He sparred with the media. He jabbed at his fellow drivers. He provoked the fans.

Cale Yarborough nicknamed him “Jaws.” Other drivers called him names we can’t print.

There was method to his madness: In those days media exposure was hard to come by and Waltrip shrewdly understood that the way to get attention was to generate controversy. Petty might win the race but Waltrip would steal the headlines.

He eventually over-did it. He alienated fellow drivers (Bobby Allison is still peeved after all these years), and the fans were brutal. After a crash at Charlotte left Darrell dazed, the crowd cheered with glee as he was loaded into an ambulance.

Waltrip’s wife Stevie often left tracks in tears from the rough reception her husband received.

The negativity finally got to him. The boos stung. It wasn’t a joke any more. Waltrip finally decided to mind his manners and mend his image, and by the end of his career in 2000 he had won over the majority of fans.

So far Busch shows no such inclination. He seems to enjoy taunting the fans and bringing their wrath down on his head. It may be the folly of youth, a phase that Kyle – like Waltrip a generation earlier – is going through.

It will be interesting to see how long he keeps it up. Busch thinks its cute and clever now, but eventually the fun will wear off being racing’s resident rascal.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 25 2010
10 Comments

10 Comments »

  • Tim Bob says:

    You have to wonder, in a little bit of “pop-psychology” here, if all this brashness and acting like he enjoys being the villain is really just a simple act of (over) compensating for a negative situation. You know, acting like something doesn’t bother you a bit when in reality it’s really eating at you inside? Kyle’s obsession with winning at all/any costs usually gets him into his messes and at his level of (im)maturity he’s just not sure how to handle it when people don’t like him. So the “mask of I don’t care” is the public version of what he’s wearing and we’re seeing.

    And understand, I am not making excuses for him. As someone else has already (correctly) noted — he’s a punk and he’ll remain one until he consciously makes the decision to change himself.

    I’m not holding my breath on that.

  • Mike says:

    Kyle is a promoters dream. Old time promoter Sam Nunis would have encouraged Kyle to keep up the bad guy routine.

  • Gail says:

    Kyle is the best thing to happen to NASCAR since Dale, Sr.’s death. He drives like Sr. and he gets people mad like Sr. And at the age of 25, he has 19 CUP victories. How many did Dale Sr. have at the age of 25? How many does Junior have at the age of 38?

    As for DW, he really only started to win the fans over when Rusty Wallace spun him out in the Winston all-star race back in 1989 or 90. Then Wallace took over the role of “bad boy.” The fans belted him with beer cans and his wife stopped coming to the track out of gear of fan harassment. History keeps repeating itself. Unfortunately for the haters, today’s bad boy is one bada$$ driver who may be irritating you for many years to come!

  • Starliner says:

    I also believe one day his sponsors will say enough is enough. As Sponsor money gets tighter, they are going to be a little more concerned with negative publicity from drivers, and instead go toward the calmer drivers like Johnson, and Gordon. We keep hearing what Kyle does, but for races run, his stats don’t come close to Johnson’s, or Gordon’s, for that matter. He hasn’t won a championship in Sprint cup, or even come close. My question is just exactly what do you base your evaluation on. If Johnson ran all those second, and third tier races, he would be racking up plenty of wins as well. I have to reserve my opinion for how great Kyle is, to when his Sprint Cup wins equals Johnson’s or Gordon’s, or Waltrip’s, or Petty’s, or Yarbough’s, or etc.

    • Gail says:

      Sponsors base on their success with a driver on how much TV time their car and brand get. I’m thinking M&M-Mars is feeling pretty happy right now with Kyle.

  • Starliner says:

    In this day and age of violence, I would think any public figure would be a little more careful about how much he taunts the red necks that favor NASCAR. He has to live in the real world during the week. Some of these fools tend to get a little out of hand. It could be very dangerous to his health. I don’t condone that kind of stuff, just realize it’s possibility. 20 years ago we didn’t have to worry about Road Rage, not it’s a everyday thing.

  • Brian says:

    Anyone who thinks Kyle should drive that way and not get roughed up is foolish. Just because you think you are the best does not mean you go out and drive over everyone getting to the front!! learn to drive like a REAL driver and maybe most would have more respect for the PUNK .

  • aginn says:

    And how many drivers took Kyle out after his hands were tied by nascar? Always blaming someone else for Kyle’s misdeeds. I hope that punk has a rough life. His actions and attitude sure deserve it. Goodbye Nascar. The fans that are left either thrive to these little dramas instead of the racing or are like me and have about had enough.

  • just me says:

    I don’t see Kyle purposely taunting other drivers in a race, he had his share of wrecks in his younger days even with his brother, but his driving style has matured as hopefully Brad’s will someday. Kyle didn’t start the Brad thing. And he’s not the only one who has given driver K. a taste of what K. has dished out to others. Brad likes to drive that way, and his victims have had enough. If Brad ever took Jr. out (a big IF since Jr.s rarely contending for the win) we’d see NASCAR change it’s tune toward Brad’s antics real quick.

    • Brian says:

      Kyle is a punk straight up !! I mean he practically drives over the front of Brad when he passes then gets bumped and as usual does not think he is touchable and turn s Brad. I really do not like Brad, but Kyle drives like an idiot and will get his sooner or later.