May 11, 2009
It's a tough job, being a fan of a driver. Jimmie Johnson fans, Jeff Gordon fans, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans all have to deal with many ups and downs throughout the year. But Kyle Busch is going out of his way to make things tough on his fans, his sponsors, and himself. And if he ever wants to be taken seriously as a NASCAR driver -- if he wants real respect, not the "yeah, he's a good driver but he's also an --" type of grudging acceptance, he's got to get his act in gear, pronto.
This past weekend was a perfect example. Busch was absolutely dominating the Nationwide race Friday night and appeared headed for his fourth win in that series of the season. But a cut tire took him out of the race -- much to the enjoyment of the crowd -- and he stormed off yet again. Like he's done so many times this year alone, he stuck his chin out and walked without a word to anyone, straight to his hauler. And on Saturday night, when a wreck took him out of the hunt, he went to his hauler to "cool off," in the words of his people. "Sulk" and "pout" might also apply.
Kyle's got a great opportunity here image-wise to be NASCAR's "bad boy," the heel who pushes around all the sweet-faced drivers and draws the ire of the crowd. But fundamentally, you've got to have respect for a heel -- you hate what he does and what he stands for, but you have to admit he's good at it. But with Kyle, every time he loses, he pouts and whines and looks for someone to blame -- he's like the worst ex-girlfriend ever. No amount of outstanding driving and worthy charity work he does -- like helping former driver Sam Ard -- can offset his little fits.
Jeff Gluck nails it in an open letter to Kyle: "I heard your apologist Darrell Waltrip say the other day that you like winning more than anyone and hate losing more than anyone. Uh, no. That's pretty silly, actually. Other drivers despise losing, too. But most of them act like men and face the music when they have bad days."
Last year, the enfant terrible act was cute. This year, it's just embarrassing. Get it together, Kyle.
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