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« Somehow, I don’t think this is what Dale Sr. had in mind | Main | Race Preview and Fantasy Picks: Lenox Industrial Tools 301 »

Kyle Busch is the smartest driver in NASCAR

By admin | June 24, 2009


By Richard Allen

Kyle Busch is extremely talented as a race car driver. About that, there can be little question. But in one sense Busch does not get enough credit. He is also very smart.

Just being a great driver does not guarantee that fans will discuss his every move, that columns will be written about him, or most importantly, there will crowds around his souvenir trailer.

So, what is it that Busch has done to place himself at the center of the NASCAR world, aside from winning races? He figured out that picking a fight with the most popular driver in the sport is not necessarily a bad thing.

Granted, being the enemy of the driver with the most fans will assure there will be plenty of booing whenever he is introduced, but it also means there will be a certain segment of the crowd who will take up his cause.

Whether it be by making outlandish statements or smashing guitars in victory lane, Busch has created an anti-hero persona. And of course, smashing guitars did cause a great deal of discussion on this website. In the piece I wrote on that incident I called what he did disrespectful and embarrassing but I did not say anything about it being a dumb thing to do.

There are always plenty of folks who want to go against the grain. Look at golf for example. Tiger Woods is the most popular player and many tune in each week to watch him win. But at the same time, there are some who tune in each week to watch him lose.

There is niche, and a profitable niche at that, for anyone who is willing to risk angering many to reach out to that segment of fans who do not want to ‘go with the flow’.

Of course, the most popular driver in NASCAR is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Last year in Richmond, these two drivers tangled while racing for the win. Busch became the biggest villain in NASCAR from that time on and he has seemingly relished every minute of it.

As a matter of fact, he rarely misses any opportunity to take a stab at Earnhardt and his ‘Junior Nation’ legion of fans.

Recently, when asked about his popularity as compared to that of Earnhardt he once again stirred the fans of the third generation driver. In this particular dig he suggested a change in the naming of the ‘Most Popular Driver’ award.

“It should be ‘The Most Loved Driver Award’ because he’ll get the votes for being the most loved driver but it seems to me I’ve been the most popular driver here this year,” Busch said.

‘Most loved’ means everybody likes you. The most popular is whether you’re doing good, bad or whatever, they write about you and talk about you. You’ve got more people calling in to radio shows talking about me than you do Junior. You got more writers and everyone in the media talking about me than talking about Junior.

“Seems to me there’s a pretty big difference.”

The ‘Most Popular Driver’ award is not going to be renamed to please Kyle Busch, and he knows that. But he also knows that by taking yet another jab at ‘Junior Nation’ he has further endeared himself to those who oppose Earnhardt for the simple reason there are so many who like him. And that endearing can be a good thing.

A person who sells NASCAR themed items recently told me that he is selling less and less Earnhardt apparel but he can hardly keep Kyle Busch items on the shelves.

For a long time there have been many drivers who have gone out of their way not to anger Junior’s fans so as not to have the wrath of so many brought against them. Kyle Busch was smart enough to realize there is profit to be made by doing just that.

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

Topics: Articles |

5 Responses to “Kyle Busch is the smartest driver in NASCAR”

  1. MISSU3 Says:
    June 24th, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Thanks for a very insightful article. A lot of people have grown tired of the whining and excuses of “the nation” and welcome Kyles comments. He hasn’t said anything that wasn’t true yet. That he is probably the most talented driver on the track these days sure doesn’t hurt. He has put fun back into Nascar for me for the first time since we lost Dale. Hope he continues to wear the black hat and resist the critics that will yell about no emotion in NASCAR and then rip on him because he’s not one of the pc, company line spouting vanilla drivers. There will forever only be one Dale Earnhardt, but Kyle has been gifted with the same raw talent and personality as Dale.

  2. The Old Guy Says:
    June 25th, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Kyle reminds me of another NASCAR driver who enjoyed litghting up the fans and his competitors.

    Kyle is, IMO, the best driver in NASCAR right now. Next year? Maybe not.

    The Jr. fans complain that writers put articles on the web about Jr. just to draw hits. Well, the same could be said about writers and Kyle. Right Rich?

    Kyle has it right about Jr. being the most loved Driver. Most of that love, however, is a result of his fathers death.

  3. Ken Says:
    June 25th, 2009 at 11:40 am

    The guy in the black hat almost always makes the most money. People will attend an event to root against their “enemy” than will pay to see their hero. Professional wrestlers make more money if they are the villian. I think Kyle got it right. Besides, you stand out when you aren’t like the other 45 or 50 drivers racing or trying to make races. I like him because of how he acts. I’m sure it is more fun to take jabs at people than to memorize your talking points given to you by the owner or sponsor.

  4. Ken Says:
    June 25th, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    I think that the number of fans that have gotten tired of the media obsession with a driver that really isn’t worthy of all that attention has grown in the last couple of years. Fans have seen that Dale can’t get it done even in Hendrick equipment and are tired of the constant coverage of a mid pack driver. They would rather the focus be put on guys that run up front and Kyle is a guy that has been doing that a lot over the last couple of seasons. Unfortunately the other guys that run up front don’t do anything special to attract the media attention so the media kind of ignores them. Gordon and Johnson have always been too vanilla and even Stewart is becoming that way now. Kyle is the only front ronner that has an edge to him and does stuff that warrants attention. It shouldn’t be that way but it is. People should be talking about the guys that are winning a lot of races no matter what but that’s not the case.

    Jr. still gets way more attention than the three time defending Cup champion and I think a lot of fans are tired of that. So when Kyle says the stuff that he does then it draws the anti-Jr. nation to his side. If Johnson or Gordon or Stewart were to say those things then I think that they would get those fans on their side too. If Jr. were running up front and winning races then there wouldn’t be this problem but he’s been a mid pack guy for a few years now and still gets more coverage than anyone and a lot of fans are just tired of that.

  5. Joe in Pittsburgh Says:
    June 25th, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I personally cant figure where I stand on Kyle Busch. On the one hand he isnt afraid to prod the tiger cage known as Jr. Nation and call it like he sees it (and usually close to accurate). For that,a certain amount of kudos to him. He’s also clearly very talented driver-wise as well and wins at all costs with banzai moves galore. On the other hand,how can one like the crybaby-throw my team under the bus-run after finishing 2nd- attitude that is very unbecoming on any level,let alone a top tier driver. What an enigma he is truly and I’m sure many outh there as well agree with me. Definitely a polarizing figure.