Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle: Riding Along with Kyle Busch

This week marked the debut of the ESPN program entitled Riding Shotgun with Kyle Busch, a documentary-style show that allows fans to see what goes on behind the scenes for the most polarizing driver in the sport of NASCAR during a race week. The first two episodes aired on Tuesday evening (Sept. 14) thanks to the rain delay of the U.S. Open finals on Monday night.

It began spending the race weekend with Busch and his fiancee Sam Sarcinella and ended with a victory dinner celebration hosted by Busch for all three of his race teams to thank them for the effort they had put in to score the sweep at Bristol.

The idea behind the show is a great one that will give fans an idea of the many demands placed on a driver throughout any given race week, not to mention the additional demands that are involved with a driver who has qualified for the Chase. Drivers are sometimes chastised for having to leave a fan appearance early or before everyone has had a chance to spend some time with the driver, but this show should shed light on all of the time commitments that are crammed into a driver’s schedule over a race week.

The show should also give fans a better idea of the human side of the younger Busch brother. For whatever reason, when Busch is in front of cameras or the media, he tends to be surly and abrasive, which has turned many fans against him. Getting to see how Busch interacts with co-workers, sponsors, friends and fans just might help a few of his detractors realize that when he is just being Kyle he’s really not a bad person. Or, it may further cement their belief that he’s a spoiled, arrogant brat who doesn’t deserve any respect.

After watching the first two episodes, there were a few things that came to light. One is the fact that everyone knows, similar to Tony Stewart, Busch hates to lose. When a pit-road miscue at Richmond during the Nationwide race took a top-three car and pushed it to the back of the field, resulting in a ninth-place finish, Busch was irritable that they threw away a strong finish that would have given them some more valuable points in the owner’s championship in the series.

The next morning Busch was out and about doing sponsor appearances and interacting with a myriad of people at the track, showing no ill effects from the previous night’s disappointment and loaded with optimism for the upcoming race. It also showed how Busch was forced to run from one appearance to another and was not afforded the time to fulfill autograph requests. It also highlighted the fact that Busch is a racecar driver and not a gymnast, which was brought to the forefront when he was unable to touch his toes during a workout with Sarcinella.

The second episode showed one of the demands that all drivers must accommodate: the autographing of thousands of diecast racecars. Busch estimated that he signs between 5-8,000 cars every year. He also signed hundreds of bottles of wine for a Toyota promotion. Busch acknowledged that, before he became engaged to Sarcinella, he signed quite a few more body parts than he does now.

Busch was then shown doing an interview and participating in a photo shoot followed by visiting with the employees in the race shop. From there, Busch fulfilled a few of his duties as a team owner from decaling a Toyota Tundra with several of his sponsors’ decals to reviewing a potential sponsor proposal package with Rick Ren for use in pitching corporations on the benefits of sponsoring his race team. Finally, Busch was shown interacting with Sarcinella, deciding how to set up the display cases at the new Kyle Busch Motorsports shop and the merchandising in the team store.

In between these activities, Busch spent time with friend and fellow driver Matt Crafton and his girlfriend Ashley Greer, enjoying a day off. Busch spent a little bit of time wake boarding on Lake Norman and playing video games in the game room at his house. It definitely gave fans a view of the driver that they never get to see during the normal fan/driver interaction on a race weekend. It allowed viewers to see that Busch is an actual person instead of the evil monster he sometimes appears to be when interacting with the media.

The next episode will tag along for the Chase drivers’ visit to New York for the NASCAR Chase media day and will also let spectators see what Busch and Sarcinella do for fun while they’re in New York. Busch supposedly planned a sunset cruise to the Statue of Liberty but it is a decent bet his PR guy was probably the point person on that arrangement.

The whole thing is a great look into the personal life of a racecar driver and is especially revealing for someone who has as many detractors as he has fans. Busch lets fans see what it is like to not only fulfill the commitments of being a Cup driver, but also handling the demands of being a new team owner in the Truck Series building a new facility and being responsible for the employees who depend on him for their incomes.

Finally, there will even be glimpses of Busch being kind to fans that are able to spend time with him. It is a revealing and refreshing look inside the young driver’s world and, if people give it a chance, just might put a few more fans in his corner.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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