Kyle Busch Is Also Winning Over The Fans
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
There is a threshold in sports that many of the all-time greats had to cross. Dale Earnhardt Sr. had to cross it, Darrell Waltrip had to cross it, Muhammad Ali had to cross it. It’s the threshold between fans loathing you because of your methods and loving you because of your talents.
It appears that Kyle Busch now has at least one foot across that threshold.
Saturday night, after Busch won the Russ Friendman 400 Sprint Cup race to give him a weekend sweep of NASCAR events at Richmond International Raceway, fans let Busch have it – with voicings of approval instead of those of derision which had been standard issue in the past.
“Pretty cool,” Busch said when asked about it.
Time was, Busch was anything but a sympathetic figure. He was seen from the grandstands as being arrogant, cold, stand-offish, spoiled, churlish, yada, yada and yada.
As he climbed up onto the windows of his victorious race cars, which he would park near the flag stands after burning tires and engines to cinders in celebration, Busch was more of a target for beer-can tossers than the idol of worshipers.
And the victory bow; it seemed to be more an eat-me gob of spit to the collective face of his detractors than a sincere thank you to the folks who ultimately pay his salary.
The angry response from the fans seemed to fuel Busch, not cause him to lose sleep.
“For me it’s fun to come out here and I guess play the villain role sometimes and yet be liked other times,” he said. “It’s always cool to have that aspect in this sport. Even if I wasn’t in this sport, you know, doing something else, you got to be happy with the way you’re living life and doing what you’re doing, otherwise it’s not worth living or not worth doing what you’re doing.”
No, Busch simply did not care about what others thought. I remember the night he won at Phoenix International Raceway and walked out of the mandatory post-race interview session when confronted by a question he didn’t like.
And to a degree, Busch, who turned 24 on Sprint Cup race day at Richmond, still seems unfazed and uncaring when it comes to negative response from the grandstands.
“You know, as long as they’re making noise, that’s what matters most,” Busch said after Saturday’s victory. “They’re (fans) coming out here and spending their hard‑earned money to watch us all race, us 43 hooligans. That’s up to them.
“It’s cool they come out here and support and are so passionate about this sport the way they are. Whether they wear Combos colors, M&M’s colors or Interstate colors, that’s what it’s all about. That’s why it’s so colorful, why the action is so great, why the sponsors are here. You know, whether it’s one‑finger salutes or thumbs up or whatever, you know, it’s all good.”
Possibly inspite of that attitude, but more likely because of it, fans are changing their tone on Kyle Busch.
That and, of course, the fact that is becoming obvious to all racing fans that Busch has talent like the sport has not seen since the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
The folks at Richmond cheer Busch all the way home Saturday night.
Joe Gibbs, the owner of the Joe Gibbs Racing team for which Busch drivers, heard it all and understood it all.
“I got to tell you” Gibbs said, “what I hear is more and more cheers. I think generally fans appreciate great effort. I think they appreciate somebody that’s really, really good at something. I think that’s what’s coming across with Kyle. I think he’s special as a driver.”
And one who is crossing a very tough threshold to cross.
1. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota
2. Tony Stewart, No. 14 Chevrolet
3. Jeff Burton, No. 31 Chevolet
4. Ryan Newman, No. 30 Chevrolet
5. Mark Martin, No. 5 Chevrolet
6. Sam Hornish Jr., No. 77 Dodge
7. Jamie McMurray, No. 26 Ford
8. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet
9. Casey Mears, No. 07 Chevrolet
10. Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Chevrolet
11. Marcos Ambrose, No. 47 Toyota
12. Kurt Busch, No. 2 Dodge
13. Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Ford
14. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota
15. Brian Vickers, No. 83 Toyota
16. Robby Gordon, No. 7 Toyota
17. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford
18. Clint Bowyer, No. 33 Chevrolet
19. Joey Logano, No. 20 Toyota
20. Reed Sorenson, No. 43 Dodge
21. A.J. Allmendinger, No. 44 Dodge
22. Martin Truex Jr., No. 1 Chevrolet
23. David Ragan, No. 6 Ford
24. Michael Waltrip, No. 55 Toyota
25. Elliott Sadler, No. 19 Dodge
26. Carl Edwards, No. 99 Ford
27. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Chevrolet
28. David Reutimann, No. 00 Toyota
29. Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Dodge
30. Paul Menard, No. 98 Ford
31. Bobby Labonte, No. 96 Ford
32. John Andretti, No. 34 Chevrolet
33. Scott Speed, No. 82 Toyota
34. Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Chevrolet
35. Jeremy Mayfield, No. 41 Toyota
36. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet
37. Mike Bliss, No. 09 Dodge
38. David Stremme, No. 12 Dodge
39. David Gilliland, No. 171 Chevrolet
40. Joe Nemechek, No. 187 Toyota
41. Tony Raines, No. 37 Chevrolet
42. Scott Riggs, No. 36 Toyota
43. Dave Blaney, No. 66 Toyota12 Comments