Woody: Nashville Not Into Punk Rock; NASCAR Shouldn’t Be Either
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
Nashville – There’s a catch-all clause in the NASCAR rule book that says drivers are held accountable “for actions detrimental to the sport of stock car racing.”
If what Kyle Busch did in Nashville last Saturday night wasn’t detrimental to the sport then nothing is.
Busch bashed to bits Nashville Superspeedway’s trademark trophy, a Sam Bass-painted Gibson guitar, in what he termed a “rock-star style” Victory Lane celebration.
NASCAR Nationwide Series Director Joe Balash was quoted as saying he had “no issues” with the incident.
Balash even suggested the antics were positive, saying that Gibson Guitars, the Nationwide Series, the track and even the sponsors “will get a little press out of it.”
I like Joe, but I wonder what planet he’s living on; the air must be thinner there.
The entire city of Nashville is in an uproar. Fans are furious. Track GM Cliff Hawks is furious. Artist Sam Bass is furious. The race sponsors are furious.
What part of “furious” doesn’t NASCAR understand?
I’ve been covering sports in Nashville four decades and I can’t recall any single incident that has created such a negative buzz.
I was on WSM radio with Bass Sunday night and for a solid hour we were deluged with calls from irate fans.
I did another one-hour TV sports show Monday night and the uproar hadn’t waned. The switchboard lit up and crackled non-stop. The host said he’s never had such a response.
Some callers said they weren’t race fans but were nevertheless incensed at the image of Busch repeatedly dashing the $2,000 instrument to the pavement. One caller suggested a boycott of Joe Gibbs Racing and its sponsors. Another said he will never attend another NASCAR event and wants the city of Nashville (actually the community of Gladeville) to “kick the bums out.”
One internet scribe lamely tried to defend Busch’s behavior and said Bass wasn’t mad.
Oh really? The Sam Bass I talked to said he was “shocked and stunned and heart-broken” as he watched Busch destroy the hand-painted trophy.
The normally mild-mannered artist wondered “How Kyle would like it if I took a hammer and destroyed his race car?”
Maybe it’s just me, but it sounds like Sam was a bit peeved.
Finally, after two days of national attention, the Associated Press got on the story. Bass, interviewed at his studio in Charlotte, told AP that he was most definitely angry and upset over what Busch did.
NASCAR by now knows what happened and it shouldn’t be let off the hook. Trust me, it would go bonkers if Busch dared treat a Sprint Cup trophy that way.
Can you imagine NASCAR’s reaction if Busch had won the Daytona 500 and proceeded to dash the trophy to bits in Victory Lane? Brian France and Mike Helton – along with Sprint and all the other high-dollar sponsors – would’ve keeled over from apoplexy.
Or what if Busch won the Cup race at Martinsville and did to the beautiful grandfather clock trophy what he did to Nashville’s trademark guitar? Think NASCAR would have “no issue” with Kyle dashing Martinsville’s trophy to smithereens in a “rock-star style” celebration?
I doubt that Joe Balash or any other NASCAR official would leave the track joking about it.
Busch could never get away with doing to a Cup trophy what he did to his Nationwide trophy, and NASCAR’s deafening silence sends a latent message about what it thinks of its second-tier series: So what? Who cares? Trashing a Nationwide trophy is no big deal. Insult the Nationwide track. Infuriate the Nationwide fans. Alienate the Nationwide sponsors.
And amid the clamor, not a peep from NASCAR, aside from Balash’s flippant, clueless comments.
The lack of response from Joe Gibbs is equally puzzling. Irate Nashville fans and track officials wonder why the organization has made no apology for Busch’s embarrassing and insulting antics. Gibbs usually had the grace to apologize when he was forced to clean up one of Tony Stewart’s similar messes.
Of course it was just a (yawn) second-rate race in some yahoo town. A Cup hotshot swaggers in, scoops off the gravy, trashes the trophy, insults the sponsors, alienates the track and the fans, and blithely jets off to the next day’s Cup race.
No big deal. At least according to NASCAR.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments