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Woody: Two Losers Acted Like Winners at Richmond

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 17 2009
Kyle Busch acted like a winner after losing out on a Chase berth at Richmond.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch acted like a winner after losing out on a Chase berth at Richmond. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

They say you can tell more about a person’s character in defeat than in victory. If that’s true we got a revealing look at the hearts of Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch last Saturday night.

I thought both were at their best following what had to be one of the most worst moments of their racing careers immediately after being erased from NASCAR’s championship picture.

Kenseth, his team and especially his normally-solid pit crew had a nightmare night at Richmond. As a result he was knocked out of the 12th and final spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup that starts Sunday at New Hampshire.

Kenseth held the spot going into the race and let it slip away. For the first time since the Chase’s inception, Kenseth won’t be in it. I figured he’d be seething after his self-inflicted exit, but instead he appeared calm and collected and accepted the crushing setback with good grace.

A few years ago during a NASCAR conference call I asked Kenseth a question and he responded by saying: “Aren’t you the guy who said I should stop whining and start racing?” 
I said I was, and that I stood by what I said.

Kenseth is a good, clean-cut guy and one of the sport’s genuine role models. But at one point in his career he tended to complain too much. He took the Chase as a personal affront after coasting to the 2003 title with one win and a lot of boring “consistency.” The following year the Chase was in place.

Matt became defensive, and I felt that he complained too long and too loud.

But not last Saturday. In what was obviously a low moment he took the high road. He congratulated the winners and walked away with his head held high.

The same for Busch. Nobody has been harder than I have on the talented but troubled young racer this year, especially after his weird guitar-smashing act at Nashville Superspeedway back in June.

The incident made Kyle appear spoiled and juvenile, and his stubborn refusal to apologize added to his growing reputation as the combative brat-boy of NASCAR.

Like Kenseth, Busch last Saturday night hit an emotional rock-bottom. The driver who went into last year’s Chase as the No. 1 seed didn’t even make the lineup this year, despite four wins.

Busch, who swapped the No. 12 Chase spot back and forth with Brian Vickers through most of the race only to lose it in the final laps, had to be devastated. I figured the spark was about hit the powder keg.

Instead Kyle, like Kenseth, was calm and even cordial during his post-race interview. He congratulated the winners. He said he just didn’t get the job done. He didn’t blame the system or complain about being left out despite his four wins. He said he was disappointed but would continue to race his heart out in the final 10 races.

He was, in a word, classy. As a past Busch critic I feel he deserves credit for the positive way he handled himself during what had to be an emotionally-devastating moment.

Busch, like Kenseth, won’t win a championship this year but maybe last Saturday he won something much more important: respect.

Championships come and go, but not class. Class is forever.

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

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 17 2009
3 Comments

3 Comments »

  • RA Eckart says:

    Larry,

    That was a sharp article. I’ve been hard on your Busch criticism, but I stand corrected. What a nice look inside two drivers. (And I got no idea where Jack Straw is coming from, either. You offered praise for maturity and criticism for immaturity. Nice.)

    - RA Eckart -

  • DL says:

    I expected class from Kenseth, but as for Kyle Busch, storming off throwing a fit would not have accomplished anything but further damage to the rest of the season. Do I really think Kyle is a so-called “bad boy”? No. During the season when he was upset after losing, or from someone wrecking him, that’s Kyle the competitor talking. The guy you saw talking at the end of the Richmond race wasn’t him- it was the real Kyle Busch.

  • Jack Straw says:

    You’re a no name moron with no class. Matt is the opposite. When you drive a car then you can criticize. You’re a legend in your own mind ONLY.