Kyle Busch is full throttle in everything he does, be it behind the wheel or behind a microphone. He's not as cool as Jimmie Johnson, doesn't have the wit of Kevin Harvick or the lineage of Dale Earnhardt Jr. – all of which makes him an easier target. He's also not afraid of confrontation. So when conflict does arise, it inevitably turns into a referendum on Busch's character, and his run-in with Richard Childress is no different.
Never mind that it was Childress who took to beating on Busch's face following a race at Kansas; that Busch has since answered questions about the incident while Childress has not; that Busch hasn't made anything of an attack that could be labeled an assault. Because he's Kyle Busch, enemy No. 1 in some circles, somehow it's all his fault. How else to explain fans sending Richard Childress, a millionaire many times over, money to pay for the $150,000 fine NASCAR imposed on him?
But Busch deserved the beating after banging into one of Childress' cars, you scream.
Horse pucky – and that's not me talking.
"What Kyle did in Kansas, we do all the time," Earnhardt said Friday. "I didn't really think that was too big of a deal. Obviously, it upset Richard, but we run into each other all the time after a race."
Junior has always had a knack for telling it like it is, even if it means calling out his late daddy's best friend. And it's not as if Earnhardt has any reason to defend Kyle Busch.
For the better part of seven years now, Busch has played the role of villain when no one else, including his brother, has had the guts to do so. Along the way, he's yelled at his crew chief, wrecked some of his competitors and criticized the Car of Tomorrow – all of which is standard fare for a Cup driver.
He's made his share of blunders, too, most notably in 2007 when he left the track after a wreck at Texas Motor Speedway even though his crew was working to repair his battered race car. He certainly does his best to egg fans on with every one of his in-your-face victory bows. And he seemingly drips with attitude around the clock.
Yes, he's both earned and embraced the role, but does that mean he's always the villain?
"The villain-type thing, I'm not sure that I really did a whole lot to bring that back upon myself," Busch said, the key word being "back" – meaning we're talking about the issues he's had in 2011. And really, he hasn't.
After accidentally wrecking Carl Edwards at Phoenix in February, the first thing Busch did when he got out of his car was to apologize. And he did so more than once.
Kevin Harvick purposefully spun Busch in last year's season finale, then mocked him after the race, so Harvick shouldn't have been too upset when Busch paid him back at Darlington in May. The speeding ticket Busch got a few weeks ago was stupid, and Busch apologized for it. As for the altercation with Childress, Busch was attacked for something that wasn't, in Junior's words, "too big a deal."
"[Kyle] is a very hard racer and we have gotten into it before, as you guys all know," Edwards said when asked if Busch is respected in the Cup garage. "We had our deal at Phoenix this year and I felt that he really was trying hard to set things straight after that. Even last weekend, he raced me extremely clean there at Kansas. He is just a hard racer."
Busch insisted Friday that he's acted with the "utmost respect to every case" that's come his way and that he's tried to act with "dignity and class." While that may be true inside his head, it's most certainly not outside the walls between his ears. Though he has matured, he still needs to show some contrition and take some responsibility for the reputation he earned as a whiny punk. Until he does, he'll always be guilty even when proven innocent.
- Kyle Busch