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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Will Kyle Busch ever become a fan favorite? Don’t bet on it

Every sport has a few guys like Kyle Busch.

They’re really, really good at what they do. The fans recognize this, and have respect for the athlete’s ability to dominate the competition on a regular basis.

But there’s one problem: They just don’t like the guy.

It all depends on how you view it as a fan. Are you rooting for the driver, about whom you have a positive opinion for whatever reason, or are you rooting for someone based on their level of driving ability.

In my experience, most of the time you become a fan because you like the driver personally, not what they do on the track. And when you look back at all the things Kyle Busch has said and done over the short number of years he has competed in the sport, it’s no surprise so many people curse his name.

It’s not just jealousy because he wins so much, because the number of people skewering 3-time champ Jimmie Johnson is far less than the number of people blasting on Busch every chance they get.

From what I can gauge, most fans view Kyle Busch as a smug jerk who is unnecessarily aggressive on the track and whose personality is everything but likable. They respect his ability to race and won’t challenge his talent level, but see no reason to ever root for him. It also doesn’t help in a popularity contest when you wreck the sport’s most popular driver, whether that’s fair or not.

Busch is not the first person to earn the dislike of so many fans. Darrell Waltrip was once viewed in similar fashion, after flapping his jaws one too many times.

Only those truly great at public relations can be both hero and villain. Dale Earnhardt Sr. was like this, as he both angered many fan with his aggressive driving and attracted many more with his engaging personality off the track.

Kyle has the aggressive driving part down, but the opposite of an engaging personality when he’s out of the car. This combination makes it unlikely he will ever be a fan favorite.

But then again, you never know. All these years since “Jaws” Waltrip was booed by so many people, that history has been erased for most new NASCAR fans who see him as the nice old guy who calls the races on Sunday.

When Kyle Busch’s career is done many years from now, 100 percent of fans will remember and respect his many wins and (likely) championships earned.

When they’re asked whether they’re a Kyle Busch fan, though, I’m guessing that number drops significantly.

Does Kyle even care whether people like him? Probably not. He’s making a good living and doing what he wants to do for a career. That’s more than many people can say.

But still, deep down, he probably wants more people to like him.


Blogger GinaV24 said...

I think its tough to go through life knowing you're disliked. It may not bother him now because he's still very young, but it may sooner or later penetrate that "me first" attitude that he exhibits in and out of the car. As you said, I don't dispute the talent, but a little consciousness of how his words affect people would be a help. I quit eating M&Ms and other Mars candy products because of Kyle Busch and I wrote and told his sponsor so. I'm sure it doesn't matter now, but someday it might.

March 8, 2009 at 3:36 PM 

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