Sunday’s Food City 500 was uncharacteristically characteristic. That is, if the race lacked the drama, intrigue, and anger most NASCAR fans associate with Bristol Motor Speedway, it was just another piece of data for the Kyle Busch kicks some serious ass file.
And whether it was a result of Busch’s unparalleled ability or the track’s recent reconfiguration, that the race more closely resembled something you might find at California or Vegas — virtually all of the race’s nine cautions were for single-car mishaps and there were no major pileups – is almost beside the point. Because about the only thing that matters coming out of Sunday’s race is the fact that the Petulant One is pretty much exactly what NASCAR needs right now.
So much of Busch’s behavior is tolerated precisely because of the aforementioned talent; really, how long would employers or co-workers put up with the "Y’all suck" crap Busch directed at his Nationwide crew on Saturday if he wasn’t winning? And as childish as some of what he brings to the table really is — me, I’d probably tell him to blow it out his ass – Busch does make things interesting.
Busch and his act have been favorably compared to Dale Earnhardt Sr., another who relished the bad guy spotlight. There’s delicious irony, then, to his willingness to call out Dale Jr., which Busch did repeatedly Sunday. Over his radio during the race’s sixth caution, Busch mocked Jr. when he learned that the No. 88 had earned the free pass. When he was asked about the response he elicits from fans during the post-race press conference, he took another shot at Earnhardt:
"I’m not out there to be No. 1. We all know who No. 1 is and forever will be. To me, I go out there to win races, to be No. 1 on the race track. That’s where I feel like I win, where my benefit is. For me, I don’t think I would enjoy having the most fans out there. I actually like the way I am, the role I portray. And I think that there’s probably too much pressure on one guy’s shoulders who doesn’t seem to win very often. But for us, it’s a blast to go out there and do what we do."
And, with his 10th win in the last 41 races, Busch’s role is one he’s not only playing well but one he figures to be playing for a long time. In other words, Jr. better be prepared for some more grenades to be lobbed his way.