By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway Kyle Busch cruised to a record-setting performance, the likes of which has never been seen before in the history of NASCAR.
Busch swept the entire week of events at arguably NASCAR’s most difficult track.
That’s right he won the Camping World Truck Series race Wednesday, then spun Brad Keselowski en-route to a victory in the Nationwide Series race Friday night, then Busch utterly dominated the Sprint Cup Series race to cap off the ‘hat trick’.
Not only did Busch become the first driver to ever do this, but it is realistic to believe that he may be the only driver to ever do so, as not many of his peers compete in the Truck Series.
This is a feat that the entire world involved with this sport should be celebrating.
However when Busch climbed from his race car following each of his historic victories this weekend, he was hammered with a smattering of boos. Apparently people were left with a bad taste in their mouths, which led me to ask the question: Did his attitude this weekend overshadow his amazing accomplishment?
There’s no doubting that Kyle Busch is one of, if not the most talented race car driver in NASCAR, and the entire world.
Every time I see him out front I think: Alright! This could finally be the race where he turns from a heel to a face. From a villain to a hero. Each time I think to myself, finally people will be able to celebrate his greatness instead of hating his aggressiveness. Yet everytime Busch finds a way to let me down, and let the fans down. It’s a shame, a damn shame.
The moment that began to tarnish his accomplishment was during the second step of his three race milestone. In the closing laps of Friday’s Nationwide race, Busch made an incredible move to take the lead from Brad Keselowski, but he hadn’t quite cleared Keselowski when he decided to veer up the race track off of turn two.
Busch made contact with Keselowski, which sent the No. 18 Z-Line designs Toyota into the wall. However in the heat of the moment Busch felt he had been wronged, and he executed the latest episode of premature retaliation against everyone’s favorite target, Brad Keselowski.
The retaliatory nudge sent Keselowski spinning out of the lead, and into the wall. But this was just the beginning of the downward spiral of Busch’s weekend in the eyes of the fans.
The real moment of frustration for the fans was Busch’s post-race reaction to his actions.
Had Busch said; Well after looking at the tape I was in the wrong, but in these cars there is little time to think about what you’re going to do before you do it. And I’m sorry… Maybe, just maybe fans would have began to warm up to the 25-year old driver from Las Vegas. However Busch didn’t quite do that.
After taunting the fans, by acting like he was wiping tears away from his face on his victory celebration, Busch went on to state that he took his competitor out on purpose.
“I thought I had him cleared on the back, and I moved up in front of him, and instead of him doing an Earnhardt crossover move he decided that he would just run into the back of me and put me into the fence. That’s Brad keselowski, so you know I went down into the next corner and dumped him.” Busch said in victory lane.
“He does it to everyone else, why can’t I do it to him?”
I cringed as I heard the words project from his mouth. Busch officially squandered another opportunity to become a fan favorite.
Sure enough Saturday evening during driver introductions the boo brigade was out in full force when Kyle Busch was announced. Then moments later Brad Keselowski came out and yelled “Kyle Busch is an ass” into the microphone, and the crowd went wild.
However I began to think that maybe Busch could possibly turn some people’s perception around with a win in the big show. Surely people would change their mind if he pulled off the trifecta right?
Well he may have done that initially, but then following the race in his press conference he showed complete arrogance. Busch was questioned about Brad Keselowski’s actions during the driver introductions, and he acted as though Brad Keselowski didn’t exist.
“Who?” Kyle Busch asked.
A media member elaborated: “Brad Keselowski”.
“I don’t know who that is” Busch responded.
“Okay he drives the 12 car” the media member rebutted.
“I saw it. But I Passed It” Busch stated.
Now it’s back to ground zero for Busch. He takes a step forward, just to end up taking three steps back in the end.
Right now he has three victories on the season, and would begin the chase tied for third in the standings if it were to start today. Busch has been great all year long, and he is now on the short list of drivers that can dethrone Jimmie Johnson. For this reason alone Busch should have the fans behind him, but he doesn’t.
Johnson is obviously not a fan favorite, which makes the Busch situation all the more complexing. All season long fans have been living by one motto “Anyone but Jimmie”, but I think that honestly the consensus of the fans would rather see Jimmie take title number five, than see Busch hoist the Sprint Cup.