It’s no secret that plenty of NASCAR fans don’t exactly worship at the altar of Kyle Busch. But Saturday night after a thrilling Bristol race, things got ugly. A fan recorded the scene as Busch left the track in a golf cart amid the jeers of an anti-Busch contingent, and it wasn’t pretty.
What’s happening here?
Busch had just come off a night in which he worked his way all the way up to second, but collided with Martin Truex Jr. and ended up finishing 20th. Granted, Bristol has a history of drivers turning other drivers, but still: if you’re getting that close and personal, you’re going to make people mad.
After the race, drivers take golf carts from the track back to their haulers and on to their planes. In this case, you can hear someone, perhaps the camerawoman, hollering “F— Kyle Busch” as the yellow firesuit-clad former champion climbs out of his golf cart. And then a cargo-shorted bro who’s several inches shorter but probably several beers fuller than Busch decides to confront Kyle. The two go chest-to-chest for a moment, and then the fan bravely shoves Busch as Kyle is turning his back. The fans, not surprisingly, pour on the abuse. Busch wisely steps back into the cart and rolls off, since it didn’t appear these folks were capable of calm, reasonable discussion about the finer points of NASCAR fandom.
Why does everyone hate Kyle Busch?
Well, a few reasons. First, he wins, a whole lot, which tends to tick off the fans of those he beats. Then, he gloats at fans’ boos, wrestling-heel style, which fires them up all the more. Plus, he’s got a bit of a rep as a whiner, sometimes deserved, more recently not … and if there’s one thing NASCAR fans won’t abide, it’s someone who whines about contact and unfair driving. Plus, there are surely a few Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans who haven’t forgotten the way Busch collided with Junior and cost NASCAR’s favorite son a win at Richmond … ten years ago.
One look at Busch’s Twitter feed shows not only how many fans hate Kyle, but how he has no trouble giving it back to them. Busch didn’t directly address the post-race incident on Twitter, but it’s clear he doesn’t care how much you hate him … you can tell it to his rear bumper.
What will NASCAR do about this incident?
There’s not much, logistically, that NASCAR or individual tracks can do; the way that these tracks are designed, there are too many choke points between hauler, garage, track and airstrip for fans to get right up next to drivers. Even with police escorts, drivers are still within earshot (and, obviously, phone camera view) of fans throughout a race weekend.
Here’s what really stinks about this: the closeness between fans and drivers in NASCAR is one of the sport’s hallmarks. You don’t get up close and personal with Tom Brady or LeBron James, but if you’re in the right place at the right time, you might just see one of the best drivers of his generation roll right up to you in a golf cart. As always, all it takes is a couple mouth-breathing dopes to screw everything up for everyone, but if this continues, NASCAR might have to look at restricting fan access even further.
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