This past weekend, Kyle Busch jetted up to Maine to run in a couple events, including the well-known TD Bank 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway. And, Busch being Busch, he didn't just run in them, he dominated, winning both. Naturally, that didn't sit well with a few locals, who griped that Busch, a ringer, was swooping in for the glory and pushing aside more deserving local drivers.
Not so, writes Kalle Oakes, a local sports columnist, who points out that Busch was paid a tidy sum by the event's promoter to draw attention to the event. There's a bigger picture, he argues:
"Racing fans," he notes, "rarely are completely satisfied with a result. If a driver wins too frequently, he must be cheating ... If the national hero the promoter flies in for a race wins, he's swiping food from the table of the drivers who provide the track's heartbeat. If the ringer runs in the middle of the pack, he didn't take the race seriously and the promoter didn't secure a big enough star."
He points out the uncomfortable truth: without an (undisclosed) appearance fee, drivers the caliber of Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, all of whom have appeared at the track on their off weekend in recent years, wouldn't come near Maine.
"Major league drivers aren't killing the 250," he writes. "They saved it from certain extinction. Your heart wants to jeer Kyle Busch. Your head might consider sending him a thank-you card."
For his part, Busch said all the right things afterward. "I love coming back to local short tracks and running big races like the Winchester 400 (in Indiana) and the Snowball Derby (in Florida) and here at Oxford," he said. "You're running against the best of the best on that day. These guys are no slouches ... Certainly that's why I always kind of like to stack up against guys in familiar territory and put myself into their arena and run against them to size up. It keeps you sharp."
You can understand where Busch and the promoter are coming from; racing is racing, and big names are always better. But do the detractors, and the small-track racers for whom this is the biggest event of the year, have a point? Are Busch, Harvick and the rest stepping on too many toes just for the sake of a promoter's appearance fee? Have your say.
- Kyle Busch