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Posted almost 6 years ago
RICHMOND, Va. – Add "most hated man in NASCAR" to the growing list of nicknames for Kyle Busch.
He can try to run, but Busch cannot hide from what went down in the closing laps of Saturday night's Crown Royal Presents the Dan Lowry 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Just when it looked like Dale Earnhardt Jr. was finally going to snap a 71-race winless streak – the longest of his Cup career – Busch's right-front fender got into Earnhardt's side, spinning him into the wall.
At the time, Earnhardt was leading the race, and with only four laps to go things were looking oh so promising for him and his millions of minions.
But instead of ending up in victory lane, Earnhardt wound up in the wall. And his following wasn't happy.
What should have been a short delay in the race turned into a sizable intermission as the Junior Nation went wild, lobbing anything they could find – beer cans, cups, trash – onto the track.
Busch, fresh off a dust up with Steven Wallace in Friday night's Nationwide race and already viewed as, ahem, less than popular, was their target – a real-life Grinch that all but stole an early Christmas from hopeful Junior fans.
Junior wound up 15th, while Busch cruised home in second to Clint Bowyer, the benefactor of Junior's misfortune.
Adding insult to injury, Busch's runner-up finish was enough to move him into the points lead.
And so if it wasn't clear before, it most certainly is now: Jeff Gordon is no longer the most hated man in NASCAR. Kyle Busch is.
"For me, there's nothing you can say, absolutely nothing," Busch said. "If I apologize up and down, even though it may or may not be my fault, it would not make a difference. Dale got wrecked, he should have had a win tonight, quote, unquote. But I'll say it again, it's just unfortunate circumstances for him because he didn't get a win and for me because now I've got to put up with it."
Of course, it doesn't matter what Busch says or that it wasn't entirely his fault. Earnhardt readily admitted he came down slightly on Busch going into Turn 3, meaning Junior is at least partly to blame.
The two were fighting for the same piece of race track. Just because he's Junior doesn't mean he wins by default, at least not in theory. But in reality, well, that's a different story.
"If I went out there on that final restart and just gave way to the 88 car, then that would not be a true race car driver," Busch said. "I had to do what I had to do to win for my team. That's what I was out there for and to do, to try to get a win. Unfortunately, circumstances happened."
For the most part, Earnhardt has handled this winless streak without showing much frustration. If he harbored any, he did a good job of keeping it inside. But it all poured out Saturday night as the dejection of coming close again only to lose was almost painfully obvious.
"The worst part about it is that I've been priding myself on running good all year and I was in a position for a win," he said. "I ran hard and got wrecked. I had a top-three car and should have finished in the top three. I was going for the win and just ended up on the hook today. I'm just disappointed."
Earnhardt Jr. didn't do Busch any favors following the race. Junior certainly didn't let Busch off the hook. And so come next weekend in Darlington, expect Junior Nation, which takes its cue from its leader, to be on Busch like he's Barry Bonds.
"Whether it is fair or not, he is going to need some security," a dejected Earnhardt Jr. said afterward. "I wouldn't say (the wreck) was intentional because if he wanted to, he could have just thrown me in the fence off (Turn) 2. I got back side-by-side going into (Turn) 3, tried to run him pretty tight running up top, and he just ran into me or got loose or whatever."
I asked Busch in his post-race interview how he thinks he'll be viewed by the Junior Nation. In typical Busch fashion, he shrugged it off like it's no big deal.
"Well, for some reason, they were awfully confused, because they were giving me the No. 1 sign the last 10 laps of the race, and I was in second place still," Busch quipped. "So, I don't know whether that's too many Dale Jr. Budweisers or they were Amped up or what."
A few minutes later, Bowyer walked in for his interview session, accompanied by a police escort.
"The cops were out there," Bowyer said, "and I said, 'I don't know why you need to escort me. You need to be escorting Kyle Busch out of here.' "
It was funny but also true.
Veteran motorsports writer Jerry Bonkowski is Yahoo! Sports' NASCAR columnist. Send Jerry a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Sunday, May 4, 2008 2:21 am, EDT
47 postsback to top
| Posted almost 6 years ago
I don't know why Nascar allows Kyle Busch to get away with this style of driving--which is ,deliberate sabotage to Dale !!! Busch certainly isn't my "favorite" driver! I least like Tony Stewart, because he's such a "hothead"! Busch is right behind him on my "do not like" list of drivers!
135 postsback to top
| Posted almost 6 years ago
Let me get this straight - we've got a guy who drives like Dale (Senior), wins like Dale, rubs people the wrong way like Dale used to - basically just the maverick that NASCAR fans have been looking for to shake things up and wake things up.
And everybody hates him - Dale fans most of all.
I think it's great. Just what the sport needed - an infusion of excitement and energy. A villain, if you will. Now maybe we'll see some racing. It's NASCAR, people, not a Sunday tea social. Lets have some characters who'll mix things up, who're not afraid to push to the limits and beyond, who don't give a damn what the "elder statesmen" of the sport think the young maverick ought to do. Lets have some guys and gals who care more about winning than they do about not offending people. You want to watch a bunch of people being nice to each other, turn on the Golf channel.
You go right on, Kyle.
"The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities." - Ayn Rand