I also honestly believe the chances of that happening are less than zero; Kyle is no Mother Teresa, after all. But who is?
It just seems odd, and somehow unfair, that a guy who seems able to do no wrong inside a race car (or truck) seems unable to do anything right once he’s back on the outside.
We are fortunate to be NASCAR fans at a time when the sport is literally making history before our eyes. In the past year alone, we have seen a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year for the very first time. The spectacular NASCAR Hall of Fame opened its doors. The Cup Series crowned its first-ever four-time consecutive champion.
And just days ago, a driver won the elusive racing trifecta, with victories in all three of NASCAR’s top three series – the Camping World Truck Series, the Nationwide Series, and the Sprint Cup Series – in a single week, on a single track. That driver was Kyle Busch.
To draw a comparison, what Busch accomplished at Bristol Motor Speedway is the rough equivalent of going to Augusta National and scoring holes-in-one on the infamous No. 4 par 3 ‘Flowering Crab Apple’ with a driver, a putter and a 5 iron in three consecutive rounds. It’s almost impossible to comprehend.
Naturally one would assume that in the ensuing days and even weeks, this feat would be a major topic of discussion in the media, at the office, and during the always entertaining game of “Armchair Official” fans like to play on Sundays after the race.
Nope. The three-race sweep has been mentioned, but only in passing. Instead, center stage has been occupied by an incident during the August 20 Nationwide Series race. An on-track version of “your mama” occurred, eventually resulting in the No. 22 Dodge of Brad Keselowski spinning into the corner while Busch’s No. 18 Toyota pirouetted its way into Victory Lane.
Busch and Keselowski have emerged as polarizing figures, the NASCAR equivalent of oysters. You either love them or, to put it nicely ... you don’t.
When we have heard the phrase “on-track incident” during the 2010 NASCAR season, it has often been accompanied by the phrase “Brad Keselowski.” The young driver, in only his first season of full-time Cup Series competition, has raised the ire of guys like Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch. So far.
Some say Keselowski is long on talent, but short on both restraint and respect. He refuses to back down when going up against more seasoned competitors on the track. He’s not above a little public PG-13 name-calling when he feels the situation warrants it. He is sometimes aggressive to the point of being dangerous behind the wheel.
Not that Kyle Busch is a stranger to feuds, by any means. The list of fellow drivers he’s had “issues” with includes Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Burton – that’s a tough one, because Burton rarely has issues with anyone -- David Reutimann and even congenial Casey Mears.
Some say that if you’re looking for a fight, just find the No. 18 and wait a while. It’ll happen. Increasingly, we’re hearing the same thing about young Mr. Keselowski.
Throughout the excitement at Bristol, Busch seemed to be cast in the role of Big Bad Wolf while Keselowski played poor defenseless Little Red Riding Hood.
But why? If you recast this scene with Brad and someone like Dale Jr. instead of Kyle, Keselowski would be Public Enemy No. 1 right now. A lot of people seem to be taking his side on this one not because of who he is, but because of who he isn’t – Kyle Busch. That’s curious, because if there’s anyone out there who might actually be able to turn Kyle Busch into a sympathetic figure, it’s BK.
It is very telling to look back on the season so far and reflect on the drivers we have talked about most. Kevin Harvick, the leader in the driver standings for the majority of the year – not so much. Reigning Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson? No one seems to be all that worried about his prospects in the Chase, so he hasn’t been the hottest of topics.
Dale Jr.? A lot of folks seem to have given up on him weeks ago. Jeff Gordon? Quietly consistent and already locked into the Chase, he’s someone we’ll circle back around to after the race at Richmond.
But with Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski – and oysters, for that matter – there is no middle ground. They are young, brash and talented. Salty and unapologetic, they elevate both our interest level and our blood pressure week after week, race after race.
We may once again be watching history in the making, as these two could have the potential to inspire a rivalry as heated and long-lasting as that of Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt. That would be something to see, because love them or not, these bad boys are very good for NASCAR.
Cathy Elliott is a former P.R. representative for Darlington Raceway who currently covers NASCAR as a freelance writer.