If you have read my column over the last few years (I’m not saying anyone has, but just go with me here), you know I’ve never been a fan of Kyle Busch and you know I am a fan of the movie “Bull Durham.”
During the Bulls’ winning streak, Ebby Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh waxes philosophical with “I love winning man … it’s like … better than losing!” And you just can’t argue that no one in NASCAR loves winning – and is better at it right now – than Busch.
As it stands right now, the younger Busch has 161 victories across NASCAR’s three national touring series (36 Cup, 80 Xfinity, 45 trucks) and has won four races in a row across the three series. Since he returned from his broken foot and leg in May 2015, he has won 20 of 57 races he has entered in the three series.
It doesn’t hurt that his team, Joe Gibbs Racing, has been, across its lineup, the best team in NASCAR this year. Denny Hamlin won the season-opening Daytona 500. All four of the team’s drivers find themselves in the top 12 in points right now.
“I think that it’s just a part of everyone coming together. It’s a part of the whole team,” Busch said after collecting his fourth win in eight days last Saturday. “It’s not just me. It’s not just (wife) Samantha, but it’s (crew chief) Adam Stevens, it’s coach Gibbs, it’s the organization and everyone rallying around us. It’s my medical team, everyone that helped me.
“I think, too, things are clicking,” he added. “It’s been exciting to have the success that we’ve had as of late, and let’s just keep it going.”
Throughout his career, Busch has had his detractors, including me. For me it goes back to another “Bull Durham” quote. When Nuke asked Crash Davis why he didn’t like him, Crash responded, “Because you don’t respect yourself, which is your problem. But you don’t respect the game, and that’s my problem. You got a gift.”
That is Busch. He was brash and disrespectful. He won a race at Nashville and smashed up a $25,000 custom guitar (it was the trophy). NASCAR parked him at Texas five years ago for intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. He has spats with other drivers, his own team, Toyota or NASCAR seemingly weekly.
But the controversy and the detractors have never really gotten to Busch, which I guess is a testament to his desire to win. After completing his Martinsville sweep two weeks ago he asked his team over the radio, “What time is it?” He then answered his own rhetorical question with, “Time to tell the haters to shut up!”
One of the other knocks that Busch gets hit with is that he is moving down to Xfinity and trucks and demolishing the lesser competition. But I think that was been one of the secrets to his success. He shows up at a track and simply gets much more track time than anyone else. I honestly don’t think a similar tact wouldn’t help guys like Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer get their careers back on track. And if they did race in the lower series and picked up some wins, they wouldn’t catch as much grief as Busch does.
The winning doesn’t excuse Busch’s bad behavior. Being so good makes him a big target for those who don’t like his attitude or style.
But as Crash said, “You be cocky and arrogant, even when you’re getting beat. That’s the secret. You gotta play this game with fear and arrogance.”
Problem for everyone else: Busch isn’t getting beat.
Andy Cagle writes a weekly column during the NASCAR season. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.