Kurt Busch is most definitely good for NASCAR. Right now, you’re either thinking I’ve been smoking Oregon’s number one cash crop, or I am being as honest as Ol’ Slick Willie about Ms. Lewinski. Like him or not (and for the record, I am not saying I’m a fan), Kurt Busch is a needed presence in the sport.
Why? First of all, Kurt races to win. One need look no further than Saturday night. His dash for cash contained no animus for anyone in his path, he had a race to win and traffic was in his way. This is no “we had a good points night” kind of guy. If the hardcore fan is being honest, there are fans of other drivers who wished their guy had a little more of Kurt’s hunger.
Secondly, Busch is for better or for worse the genuine article. There’s no politically correct veneer separating his thoughts from the public. Quite frankly, a part of his trouble was being all too willing to air his displeasure with the number two team at Penske with the Captain, while God and everybody is listening. No one will argue the man doesn’t pick his battles poorly at times, but no one will accuse Kurt Busch being disingenuous, a trait frustrating to fans of certain other drivers who shall remain nameless.
Thinking specifically on the race at Richmond, there were more a few fans who were a little tired of Tony Stewart’s complaining about how other drivers race him hard when he thinks nothing of doing the same himself (just ask Kurt’s brother Kyle about the Coke Zero 400 a couple of seasons back). Kurt Busch doesn’t give two hoots who you are, he will stand up to you, and at least attempt to make a good argument for it. Think about it, we had three former champs all bangin’ doors at Richmond.
In his current position, racing for a one car operation, and with his propensity for tweaking noses, Busch knows he’s on a bit of an island. Even though he’s by himself (would Kyle even defend him? I’m not 100-percent confident he would), Kurt isn’t backing down.
None of this means much if Kurt isn’t a winner. Wherever he goes, wins seem to follow. In his brief go last year in the 51, Busch may not have won an event, but he certainly elevating their stature. At Furniture Row, Kurt looks very much like a guy who ably succeeded in taking what Regan Smith started, and has made the team even more relevant.
What will be interesting to see is how Busch’s run at Furniture Row plays out. Kurt Busch is Kurt Busch, and one wonders how well he can walk the line. Will he push it so close to the edge that owner Barney Visser says enough is enough? It’s little bit like the relationship between Art Mullens and Raylan Givens in the TV series Justified. Visser knows he has a bit of a rogue, Busch knows there are limits that even a former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion can’t break, and so one has to wonder how long this NASCAR odd couple will co-exist.
At the end of the day, it’s kind of like that NASCAR TV commercial, “every Hatfield needs a McCoy.” In a world where we have experienced a little too much of the unexpected, having Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart go at it like Devil Anse and Ol’ Ran’l give us a sense the some things are still right in the world. It’s a part of what keeps us tuning in. Variety is the spice of life.
Jim McCoy is an award-winning TV and radio sports reporter and play-byplay announcer who resides in the Medford, Oregon area with his wife and three kids. Just about any evening, you can find Jim bench racing with a fellow fan.