Leader Blues

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

SPORTS >> Think Kyle Busch ‘stinks’? Find a more creative way to say it

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Kyle Busch’s post-race interview shortly after he finished second in the inaugural Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway on Saturday has sparked yet another round of Shrub-bashing.

Just the fact that Busch, who makes no bones about his disdain for the media, agreed to an interview after losing the lead to winner Brad Keselowski in the closing laps is a sign of progress, but his dismissive attitude when informed he had tied 80s Busch Series standout “Ironman” Jack Ingram for most consecutive top-two finishes was enough to bring out the Shrub haters once again.

It’s the latest in a racing season that has seen countless attacks on the 24-year-old Las Vegas native for his actions both on and off the track. Race fans love having someone to hate, and Busch seems to fit the bill in every possible way.

Busch has never been a favorite since his arrival in what is now the Sprint Cup Series in 2004, but his streak of 21 wins in NASCAR’s top three series last year, paired with his aggressive driving style and lack of enthusiasm when dealing with the media, has now elevated him well above Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson as racing’s Public Enemy Number One.

The stuffing hit the fan once and for all after his NNS win at Nashville in early June when he took the trophy, a custom Sam-Bass painted Gibson Les Paul guitar, and smashed it Kurt Cobain-style in victory lane. He claimed he did it with the pre-approval of Bass himself, and that he did it so he could share parts of the trophy with the members of his team, but fans found that explanation far from suitable.

Is he arrogant? Sure he is. Is he a sore loser? Absolutely. Does he leave himself open to scrutiny with some of the things he says? It certainly appears so. But the attacks have become so predictable and boring that they have diluted Busch’s villainous appeal.

Remember how fans harassed Darrell Waltrip back in the early 80s? When his main sponsor was Tide laundry detergent, and his top adversary was Hueytown, Alabama’s own Bobby Allison, fans brought empty boxes of Tide wrapped in toilet paper to the track, exclaiming “Roll, Tide!” Such shenanigans may not be acceptable in today’s politically correct world, but simply logging on the racing message board in your area and declaring that “Kyle Busch is a crybaby punk” leaves a lot to be desired.

Granted, there is a fine line between what is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to showing your disapproval of a driver.

Most of us remember the scary scene in Talladega a few years back when fans threw beer bottles onto the track at Jeff Gordon’s car after a controversial win.

I will never condone such juvenile behavior, simply because of the potential for danger it poses. But if you hate Busch, find a more creative way to express that hatred.

But enough of the pages and pages of anti-Kyle rants on thread after thread of message boards. Every time he does something stupid, you can count on seeing the dreaded subject lines: “Kyle Busch, what a jerk!” And then there’s “Kyle Busch is an idiot!” And let’s not forget the most common, if least creative: “Kyle Busch STINKS!”

We get it. You don’t like him. But while I challenge all of you Busch haters to find more creative ways to express your contempt for him, I will also remind you of another driver that was met with the same dislike a couple of decades ago, the beloved Dale Earnhardt.

Think about it. Dale had numerous nicknames, such as Ironhead, the Intimidator, the Man in Black, just as Kyle is called Wild Thing, Shrub, Rowdy, and the list goes on and on. Kyle’s aggressive style resembles Earnhardt’s in many ways, and let’s face it, Dale wasn’t always a friend to the media. Sound familiar?

In no way am I trying to belittle the great legacy of NASCAR’s all-time biggest hero and seven-time champ. I’m simply trying to point out that before he became the face of the sport and a phenomenal rags-to-riches story, Dale Sr. was considered to be Public Enemy Number One by fans in the late 80s.

I just wanted to clarify that. The last thing I want is to wake up in the morning, check all of the area racing boards and read, “Jason King STINKS!”