While the Sprint Cup Series has a rare but much needed off week following a weekend in Thunder Valley, I am a bit crestfallen about no new Cup action until Atlanta on Sept. 5. While the Grand Prix of Belgium is one of my favorite Formula 1 races, NASCAR will always be my bread and butter – and come Sunday morning I will have a lot of jelly – but no toast. What is compounding the lack of left turns this weekend even more is the constant repetition of the Bristol weekend; namely, Kyle Busch’s three-win effort and the tangle between he and Brad Keselowski.
By now we have all seen the video tape of Busch’s weekend three-peat; from driving through Jennifer Jo Cobb to turning around Keselowski, Busch’s wins are being heralded as the greatest thing since Bill Elliott won the Winston Million in 1985 or Harry Gant’s four-in-a-row streak in the fall of 1991.
While it was impressive to win three races in a weekend, the Camping World Truck and Nationwide wins are being given a little too much weight in the big picture of the sport’s history. The Cup Series win was solid, his fourth win at the high-banked half-mile and second in a row at the night race. In his last five races there he has three wins, a second and a lowly ninth-place finish.
To me that is worthy of more attention and celebration than dueling against what amounted to probably three or four worthy opponents in the Truck race, and then turning Keselowski after lifting and sliding up in front of him. Which brings us to the next scene that has been replayed more often than Lindsay Lohan walking into a courtroom – or a jail cell. Keselowski calling Busch an “ass” during driver introductions before Saturday night’s event.
Oh snap! No he didn’t! Brad be hatin’ on him!
Give me a break. Yes it was justified, sure it is irrefutable, but is it really worthy of bleeping out and analyzing every word an inflection, as if trying to authenticate a message from bin Laden or verify the video to see if that truly was the real Saddam? Sure, he would have been well served to issue a Robby Gordon vs. Michael Waltrip type blast, but he toned it down a bit already for you. Even Dale Earnhardt wasn’t censored when his feelings about wrecking with Ricky Rudd on the final lap of the 1989 Tyson Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro.
What is more disconcerting is the brazenness of Busch following both the Nationwide race and Cup race Saturday night when the issue of Keselowski came up. He freely admitted dumping the No. 22 Penske Dodge intentionally on Friday and then gave a terse, “Who?” when questioned about it by ESPN’s Marty Smith in the press room on Saturday.
Making the rounds on television this week – and even on the radio while crossing the finish line in the Cup race – Busch has repeatedly focused on himself winning all three races, not the customary “we” when recognizing an accomplishment that is akin to Petty and Earnhardt’s seven titles.
Yes, that may sound like nit picking, and while there is no “I” in team – but there is an “M” and an “E”, the distinct absence of anything remotely resembling humility with Busch continues to be played over and over again.
Which is fine, it’s his prerogative and at least something different than the canned answers you can literally lip-synch along with the majority of drivers when interviewed these days, but the attention being foisted on Busch in Bristol may actually serve to be his stumbling block and not a springboard for the remainder of the season.
As our own Tom Bowles pointed out in Wednesday’s Did You Notice? column, Busch hasn’t had much to crow about since June – nor have the rest of his JGR teammates. A pair of eighth-place finishes in the past nine races is not exactly building a strong foundation heading into the Chase, particularly at a track that shares next to nothing in common with anything in the final 10 races, save for the concrete surface at Dover.
At the risk of coming off as a killjoy or as a Busch basher for not busting a cap on the Moet for the trifecta in Bristol, it is in large part because of the way it was achieved and the obstacles overcome in the process. It is somewhat less than spectacular in 2010 of a premier Cup driver, in far and away the best equipment running against fields full of start-and-parkers, up-and-comers and horribly under-financed and struggling teams.
If you ever get a chance to stroll through the Truck Series garage, you will see half of the trucks in question are not pristine show car-quality pieces that only a few of the top teams are able to tow to the track. Many have painted-over tape, frayed fiberglass and battle scars still visible from weeks earlier. The disparity between the haves and have-nots in the Nationwide Series is perhaps even greater, with only Cup affiliated teams having an opportunity to seriously challenger for a win. The last time a non-Cup driver won a Nationwide race was Justin Allgaier back in March – driving a Penske Racing Dodge.
Just because it’s an off weekend doesn’t mean we have to blow something out of proportion; putting Busch’s weekend in perspective would be easier had their been a Truck Series back in the early 1990s when smaller teams were on a more equal footing in the Nationwide Series, and even the Cup competitors for the most part. There is something to be said for being humble and winning with class, and giving credit where it is due. Rowdy being Rowdy was on display for everyone to see last weekend, and likely will be on any racing-related program or website until we get to Atlanta in 10 days.
If we even make it that long.
About the author
Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.
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