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Junior vs. Busch: Who’s the intimidator? (5-5-08)

By admin | May 4, 2008

Junior vs. Busch: Who’s the intimidator?


By Richard Allen


Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is, obviously, the son of the late seven time NASCAR champion. However, he has never really employed the same driving style as his hard nosed father.

Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was such a hard charging, take no prisoners type driver that new words were added to the racing vernacular just because of him. “Ironhead”, “Rubbin’s Racin’”, “Rattling his cage” as well as “The Intimidator” became household words among NASCAR fans who either loved or hated Earnhardt.

Junior, on the other hand, has a much more laid back personality than did his father. Naturally, like anyone who has ever driven a race car at a competitive level, he has had run ins with other drivers. A couple of incidents with Carl Edwards come readily to mind.

It is not that Junior is not aggressive or a hard charger, he just goes about his business in a different way.

Kyle Busch, on the other hand, may not bear the name of the late racing great but his driving style is very much reminiscent of the seven time champion. Like the 1980s version of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Busch seems to bring a “Checkers or Wreckers” mentality to the track with him every weekend. He wants to win every race and does not care who he has to rub the wrong way to accomplish that goal.

Very much unlike Earnhardt, however, Busch has never been able to capture the loyalty of the NASCAR fan base in a significant way.

The incident between Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kyle Busch late in Saturday’s race in Richmond seemed destined to happen from the moment race leader Denny Hamlin slowed due to tire trouble. The two drivers split Hamlin and went on to stage a brief side by side battle in which Earnhardt emerged as the leader and began to pull away.

However, a caution period brought on by Hamlin stopping on the track when his tire finally deflated set up the race’s defining moment.

Anyone who had ever seen Kyle Busch race before knew he would give it all he had and would not be bothered by the fact that he was racing with the very popular Earnhardt. Predictably, Busch drove under Earnhardt through the first and second turns of the ¾ mile oval and the two staged a drag race down the back straightaway. Both drove into Turn 3 very hard and Busch’s car appeared to get loose and then slide up into Earnhardt, sending the #88 car spinning into the outside wall.

The incident was full of irony.

Perhaps first and foremost, last year Earnhardt bumped Busch out of a ride at Hendrick Motorsports. Then, in turn, Busch bumped Earnhardt out of a win.

Add to that, a  driver who drives much like Dale Earnhardt, Sr. had just crashed Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Also, the incident took place entering Turn 3, the same place as a wreck that in 1986 on a differently configured Richmond International Raceway gave rise to several of those previously mentioned terms. In that wreck Senior and Darrell Waltrip tangled late in the race and the legend of “The Intimidator” began to take shape.

The irony would have been too much if Mark Martin had been able to score a win in the #8 car. Perhaps the fact that a Richard Childress Racing car did go on to win will have to be ironic enough.

And more, Busch had set the stage for the incident the night before during the Nationwide Series race. After a last lap dust up with Steven Wallace which ended with a pit road confrontation and a bit of verbal sparring, Busch made a prophetic comment. “I don’t care,” he said when asked what he thought of his run in with Wallace. “I’ll wreck as many cars as I have to.” That sounded like a driver who really wants to win and does not mind rattling a few cages to do it.

Ultimately, the incident on Saturday night was just hard racing between two drivers who very much wanted to win. No doubt many fans would have liked to have seen the result of the crash turn out just the opposite of the way it did. But one thing is for sure, the irony of it all is a little hard to ignore.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

14 Responses to “Junior vs. Busch: Who’s the intimidator? (5-5-08)”

  1. Rick Says:
    May 5th, 2008 at 7:30 am

    I find it hilarious that people will compare any driver to Dale Earnhardt. Dale drove in a different time; it was a different type of racing back then.

    One thing for sure is Dale hit you because he meant to. Everyone knew it and feared it. Another thing for sure is he was respected by his fellow drivers despite it. NO ONE could make an ill handling car finish in the top 10 like Sr. could. They still can’t.

    Busch is just plain reckless.

    I’m neither a Jr fan, nor was I a Sr. fan, but knowing those times, Busch is NOTHING like Sr.

    He’s a punk.

  2. Al Torney Says:
    May 5th, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Nice fair and balanced article.

  3. april Says:
    May 5th, 2008 at 7:37 am

    You said Busch hasn’t gotten the fan base Earnhardt Sr had - he’s only in is 4th year - how many years did it take Dale Sr before he was “beloved”? He certianly didn’t have that fan base at 4 years into his career. Give Kyle Busch some time - each race he gains more fans.

  4. linda wood Says:
    May 5th, 2008 at 7:47 am

    when drivers stop on the track as busch did then drive off when flag comes out should not be able to finish the race. hamlin did this just to stop the race because junior was going to win busch did not have chance to win the race fairly

  5. King Says:
    May 5th, 2008 at 8:21 am

    I think its really funny that people seem to think Hamlin had something to do with Jr and Busch’s wreck. He could care less at that point who won the race, he was trying to salvage anything he could out of his dominating race all day.

    Wake up Jr nation it was a racing incident. Busch gets loose while Jr crowds the bottom.

  6. LC Says:
    May 5th, 2008 at 9:12 am

    I am a Jr fan, was a Senior fan before he left us. I don’t think Kyle spun Jr on purpose. He did over drive into the corner and run out of talent, of course he does that consistently. Denny Hamlin brought out the caution on purpose, to help his team mate, a blind man can see that. These statements being made by journalists that Kyle is more of a Dale senior than Jr is needs to be addressed. Kyle Busch is a young driver out of control for most of the race, he operates on the edge of wrecking at all times, on several occasions he has run out of luck. When he does run out of luck usually he takes a lot of good iron with him. To say this guy is more like Dale senior only shows the writers lack of knowledge. For the most part Kyle is a loose cannon, a punk, he is not any where close to being a Dale Senior. As a fan of Seniors for many years, I am actually offended that any writer would make such a comparison. If there is a driver out there that reminds Dale Seniors fans of Senior, and I mean if, it is Tony Stewart. Please stop dragging Seniors legacy through the mud. Kyle Busch will be a great driver some day, if he pulls his head out of his you know what. In closing, Denny Hamlin is the bad guy , people need to focus on his unsportsman like behavior intentionally bringing out the caution.

  7. Mike Says:
    May 5th, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Anyone who has ever driven a racecar knows that it’s harder to pass a car than it is to wreck a car.
    That is why I always pulled for whoever was in front of Earnhardt Sr. and why I think Jr. is a better driver than his father was.
    Just think how many races and championships someone with the driveing talent like Mark Martin could have won if he knocked other drivers out of his way like Sr. did on a regular basis.
    I’m just glad no one ever died as a result of his get out of my way driveing style. He was far from the best!!!!!!!

  8. Chris Says:
    May 5th, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Quite honestly, I think the orange 20 car is becoming more like the old black 3 car was in that when Tony is on a roll, he’ll move people out of the way without wrecking them most of the time. He rattles peoples cages, and races them hard, but as clean as possible. Tony may not be liked by all, but has a lot of respect. Kyle could learn a lot from Tony. Right now Kyle is not really worth cheering for. Yes he’s talented, but his attitude stinks. If he doesn’t start showing some respect to his fellow drivers, he’s in for some very humbling experiences.

  9. Aven Says:
    May 5th, 2008 at 11:30 am

    I’m a Kyle Busch fan. Like with Dale, Sr., when it come to a win in the last laps, somebody is going to be spun or wrecked. Sometimes they win and sometimes they lose but it will be entertaining regardless. The “he raced me clean” does not make it as much fun.

  10. Bill W. T. Says:
    May 5th, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    You earnhart jr, fans are idiots!!!! Can someone please tell me why NA$CAR’S “most popular driver” is someone of inferior talent? I am a “SMOKE” fan, that’s who should be the driver to have the title of “most popular”, but if not him, then someone with talent and the ability to show that they are not only competitive but a “winner”…. i.e. gordan, johnson, kenseth, edwards… and I don’t even like those guys (hate gordan, johnson and all hendrick organization, cheaters all the way to the top-forgot about rick cheating the government and having to go to prison???), but they show talent. And thats what Kyle shows talent, the incident was just a racin’ thang… NO DRIVER should lift to avoid a wreck going for the win!!!
    Every driver is frigin’ worried about running into or upsetting earnhart and his “kool-aid drinking” “nation” fans that it makes me so mad every week, just last week at Talladega “THE BEST DRIVER”, “SMOKE” said over his radio, after jr. hit him, let jr. know he did nothing wrong…THAT’S B.S., would sr. have ever came over the radio and said that, I think NOT!!!
    Everyone needs to quit trying to drive on egg-shells around this mid-level talent driver and being worried about the consequinces of his fan base if you do something to him.
    Real race fans keep this in mind…….

  11. Karin Says:
    May 5th, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Kyle Busch is a punk. He certainly can drive, and his record shows that. BUT, he is consistently causing wrecks and near wrecks. I don’t think he does it on purpose to get in front or to pay people back for past wrongs. That I could almost respect. Instead, he is just reckless and out of control. There is a HUGE difference.

  12. LC Says:
    May 5th, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Bill W. T, get back on your meds.

  13. GAA Says:
    May 5th, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Bill W. T. couldn’t have said it better. Jr good but he isn’t one of the best.

  14. NerineeTib Says:
    May 8th, 2008 at 12:35 am

    well done, man