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Kyle Busch Is Also Winning Over The Fans

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 3 2009
Kyle Busch celebrates Richmond style. (RacinToday photo by David Vaughn)  

Kyle Busch celebrates Richmond style. (RacinToday photo by David Vaughn)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

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 Toyota

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 3 2009
12 Comments

12 Comments »

  • johnny says:

    Without doubt Micheal has to be the biggest DumbA__ that has ever lived, damm man get a life, you are pitiful

  • Michael says:

    Agreed, and while he will never have a following like the clueless nation, he wins a few more fans every week. I go to both PIR races each year, and yes i stand up and cheer for the 18 car. The intersting things is, so are more and more people every year, he is amazongly talented and will go far. Another thing, look at John Force, amazing driver, and he will complain louder than Kyle ever has, but u dont hear people talkin smack about him. Kyle is a 24 year old kid with the weight of many things on his shoulders, so stop complaining and start enjoying being a witness to history in the making. And for the ignorant among us, the Camry is the only of the 4 makes in NASCAR that is built by American workers, with American made parts, unlike the Mexican and Canadian made ” American ” Companies. I am not anti American Car, just anti foreign built car… enjoy

  • Greb says:

    Wait a second…

    Did we just go from nonexistent Kyle Busch fans to a Kyle Nation in the span of nine comments?

  • Grumpy says:

    Excuse me if I don’t jump on the Kyle Busch Band wagon! I cannot stand the punk! You might think he’s a great driver, but to me, he’s a reckless dolt! Hopefully someone will stuff him into the wall and ring his bell good! Maybe that will reduce the swelling in his head! And don’t tell me who I have to cheer for! I’ll cheer for whomever I please! We’ve had to put up with this garbage from Junior Nation, now we have to put up with it from Kyle Nation! No thank you!

  • The Old Guy says:

    Sharon, Julia & Johnny. You’re suffering from an affliction called “denial”.

    Slowly, but surely, more and more fans are joining the ranks of those of us who were Busch Brothers fans from the get go.

    I see something in Kyle Busch that has been missing from the sport of NASCAR since the days of Tim Richmond. A burning desire to win.

  • KC says:

    Julia and Sharon, you both need to face reality. I am a Kyle Busch fan, so there you go Julia, now you know a Kyle Busch fan. And, Sharon, I am guessing you are either a Dale Jr. fan or your favorite driver never wins! Both of you ladies have a great week!

  • johnny says:

    You have got to be kidding, I know alot to nascar fans and believe me I have never met or spoke to a one of them that is a fan of this cry baby idiot, hes like so many more little punks that come into nascar, give him alittle time and take him out of that 50 extra horsepower Toyato, then watch him fall like a rock.

  • Al Torney says:

    Busch’s popularity will continue to grow as he wins more and more races. When a driver the caliber of Jeff Gordon heaps praise for your driving ability you know you have made it. Right now there appears to be only a handful of drivers in Cup that will pull out all of the stops in attempt to win. And Kyle leads the charge. Jeff Gordon was booed loudly for years but still sold alot of souviniers.
    Kyle will follow suit.

  • Tracy says:

    I was at the Richmond race, and the biggest crowd buying stuff from the midway was in front of the Kyle Busch hauler. Also, there were several children in our area in the stands, and they were all his fans as well, wearing M&M gear and standing on their seats cheering him on. I think you’re right – he’s getting more popular, although he’ll never be beloved, like Mark Martin.

  • Julia says:

    NO, he is NOT winning over the fans!At least not a single one of the hundreds that I have contact with. Hoping so does make it true, and writing an article saying it is someans nothing, cause it’s a lie. In fact I have never met a single Kyle fans since he came into the sport. Not a one. I know Dozens and dozens that can’t stand the sound and sight of him, but not one that likes him. Sorry dude, no matter how much you try and pretend people like him 75% and growing, hate him. Nice try butdidn’t work!

  • Sharon says:

    Not this fan, not as long as he’s a childish punk who refers to his crew as “ladies,” who tells them, “You suck,” who stomps from the track because he’s not won. . . . Mostly, I ignore him; I turn the tv off when it becomes apparent he’s going to win; I change the channel any time his face comes onto the screen in a commercial or other “pitch.” Youth does not necessarily equate with immaturity; in his case, he *is* the definition of immaturity!