Kyle Busch fills role of villain -- and winner


The hottest commodity in American racing isn't Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Danica Patrick.

The runaway leader is a kid who grew up in Southern Nevada on a dirt track in Pahrump and on asphalt at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Kyle Busch, take a bow.

Busch is the most-talked-about person in racing. Just go to NASCAR Web sites, listen to satellite radio programs or watch any of the special racing programs on television.

They say every sport needs a villain, and Busch accepts the role. He fuels it and feeds on it with his bows to the crowd after grabbing the winner's checkered flag.

He doesn't cower on a racetrack when boos cascade.

No one can deny calling him a winner. He's brash and cocky. He plays a crowd better than Don Rickles.

Busch, 23, won his fourth Sprint Cup race of the season Sunday, and this week he tries to become the first NASCAR driver to compete in three national series in three states in three days.

Don't rule out a trifecta; the Toyota driver has won four races in the Nationwide series and twice in trucks.

Stick Busch in front of a rickshaw, and he'll want to be the fastest, regardless of his passenger's weight.

Negative reaction to Kyle and brother Kurt Busch seems to bother me more than it does the two Las Vegas natives.

Kurt, who has mellowed the past few years, once was as hotheaded and disliked as his younger brother. Each has won nine times in his first 128 Cup races.

Winning and not being a young driver lobotomized by sponsors and owners irritates fans.

"If you show a persona on TV, or whatever that I guess I've shown ... (fans) don't like seeing people that are cocky or arrogant or whatever," Kyle Busch said this week.

"I guess I've portrayed that a little bit. It's kind of frustrating because I don't feel like that's who I am or that's who I've tried to portray. But that's basically the reason why I feel like that I'm disliked. It doesn't bother me.

"I'm just out there to do a job, and that job's to win races and to go fast. You got to think that you're the best when you go out there and do that, because otherwise you're kind of already behind the eight ball mentally."

Among those defending Busch is popular veteran Kyle Petty, who moves to the TNT announcer booth as an analyst when the cable network provides coverage of Sunday's Sprint series race.

"When a guy talks the talk and then he walks the walk you can't argue that point," Petty said.

Busch doesn't walk the walk; he swaggers the swagger.

Added Petty, "He's a lot smarter and a lot shrewder than we give him credit for. He plays it a little bit, he could back away from it, but he plays it. He didn't come to the dance to win Miss Congeniality, he came to take home the trophy."

Maybe fans would have a different opinion of Kyle Busch if they saw his charitable side. He's helping one of his sponsors, Pedigree, raise money for pet shelters and rescue groups within his Kyle Busch Foundation.

How could they boo a dog lover?

And Kyle's brother should be cheered if for no other reason than his foundation recently christened the Kurt Busch Superdome at Victory Junction Camp in North Carolina for kids with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses. He contributed $1 million so camp kids have a place to play mini-baseball indoors.

Lob a beer bottle at that.

• BLOG TIME -- "Blog" sounds like your engine lost a couple of spark plug wires, or you're driving on a flat tire.

Starting Tuesday, "blog" will be me.

My first motor-sports blog -- Heavy Pedal -- will appear at reviewjournal.com that day. You won't have to wait until Fridays to be informed, entertained or aggravated, but I'll still be here every week, too.

Three months ago I started to text message, and now I'm a blogger. But I still can't set the clock on my Jeep's radio.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com.

 

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