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Sunday, September 19, 2010

What is a dirty driver … and does Kyle Busch fit the bill?

Just in case anyone had forgotten why so many people dislike Kyle Busch, he decided to give fans another reason Saturday at the end of the Truck series race at New Hampshire.

For those who missed the race, here’s a brief synopsis: Busch and Kevin Harvick battle hard up front all day; Late in the race, James Buescher makes a great move to take the lead as Busch/Harvick battle; And then, there was the final restart.

Desperately trying to get the lead back, Busch can’t get completely in front of Buescher so he cuts him off, in the process putting himself into the wall for a second. Somehow, he managed to maintain the lead and win (his 80th overall victory in the top 3 NASCAR series), while Buescher (who has yet to win a race in the top 3 series) went on to finish second.

To top it all off, Busch gives Buescher the middle-finger salute on the cool-down lap. I assume this has something to do with Busch catching the wall, but that’s pretty ridiculous when you consider that Busch is the one who cut Buescher off and initiated the contact.

In fact, Busch should have thanked Buescher for not driving hard into his bumper and sending him spinning, as some other drivers, including Austin Dillon, suggested would have been the proper response. The fact is that Busch only won because Buescher backed off and didn’t plow through Busch when he was cut off.

As usual, the two drivers had different views of what happened.
Busch saw it as just racing.

Buescher echoed Todd Bodine’s comments from last week, calling Busch a dirty driver.

"He just went to the fence," Buescher said. "He wasn't clear at all. He drove like he had no truck on his outside, and he hit my left front and ended up in the wall. He just drove us dirty and got the win, and we hung in for a second-place finish."

Busch didn’t see it that way, but hinted in his comments that he didn't really care whether his move was clean or not.

"I knew I had to clear him. Regardless of what was going to happen, I had to clear him, and I tried rubbing off of him, and he was still there just a little bit, and it turned me into the wall. It was a hard hit. It knocked my helmet crooked. … I was surprised, really, that it felt the way it did -- and we were just kind of able to mosey around for the next couple laps and bring it home."

I’m not upset that the restart featured hard racing, as that’s what makes the Trucks the most exciting of the top 3 to watch at times, and I encourage it. What bothers me is Busch’s approach to these races in the lower series, and his entitlement attitude when he is competing there against the regulars in the lower series.

He’s a guest in the Truck series, and when one of the young drivers in that series races him hard, he gets offended and flicks him off? That right there is an indication of why Busch is not liked by most fans.

There was a stat thrown out during the race that stunned me: If Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick both enter a Truck series race, it’s pretty much a lock that one of them will win. Last time that didn’t happen: 2008.

That just reinforces my belief that he has had more than enough fortune in these lower series and doesn’t need to be driving the way he did at Loudon. I want to see him race hard, but you still have to respect the competition, and I don’t think he does.

The way I see it, Busch has an entitlement mentality. He thinks every race win belongs to him before the race is even run, and if anyone gets in his way he wants to wreck them, give them the finger, or both.

While this large amount confidence (a.k.a. a huge ego) may help Busch rack up wins, it’s going to do nothing but anger his competitors and most fans, which is why you don’t hear many cheers for Busch.

And as a side note: Even if Busch does reach his career goal of 200 wins between the 3 series, he still won’t even be close to what Richard Petty accomplished. Petty did it against Cup drivers; Busch is picking on the JV squad by winning all these Nationwide and Truck races, and it’s nowhere near the accomplishment.)

What is a dirty driver?
Buescher and Bodine raised an interesting issue. Both called Busch a dirty driver, and it’s been heavily debated whether that’s true.

The problem with determining who’s a dirty driver is that most people will not apply the same standard to all. Take Dale Earnhardt Sr. for example: Everyone agrees he was an aggressive driver, but his fans will deny he was a dirty driver. People who didn’t like him will say he was dirty.

The same issue applies with Busch. Because his personality is so disagreeable, and so many people can’t stand the sight of him as a result, it’s easy to say he’s dirty. I wouldn’t say he’s completely dirty, but he can be from time to time. The Bodine incident wasn’t bad, and Kyle did nothing wrong there. But if he keeps driving the way he did against Buescher, he’ll be earning that reputation as a dirty driver.

There are those who would defend Busch’s actions as just racing. And that is accurate … to a point.

But it’s important to remember that all actions have consequences. Kyle wants only to win, and has more than enough talent to do so regularly, but if he wants to keep winning with his bumper, he’ll be receiving his share of bumper hits in return.

Because if one thing’s true about racecar drivers, as Jimmy Spencer once said, they never forget.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

And yet Kyle Busch wonders why he is having trouble finding a sponsor for next year for his truck. Sponsors shy away from such a controversial figure.

September 19, 2010 at 5:08 PM 

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