Cockiness is not showing confidence; it is showing a lack of it.
Kurt and Kyle Busch seemed cocky when they began racing in NASCAR’s top division, Kurt in 2000 when he was 21 and Kyle four years later when he was 18.
It was the right survival mind-set at the time.
They had to establish themselves as competitive and hard-nosed. That didn’t take long.
Once they started ringing up victories, regrettable behavior and attitude overshadowed their wins.
Their success stories as products of a working-class Las Vegas family and learning to work on race cars for their treks to small dirt tracks and ovals in Nevada should have caught the eyes and hearts of fans.
It was easier for fans to begin booing when Kurt and Kyle overstepped what’s expected of young drivers. But several wannabe racers have been darlings in front of microphones and cameras but never won.
Playing cute to the cameras wasn’t important to the Busch boys, who too often acted and spoke their minds before thinking about public-relations ramifications.
NASCAR fans have long memories. Mess up once and you’re marked for life.
Growing up in a fishbowl isn’t easy, especially the ocean-size NASCAR aquarium. It’s a glass house that makes some drivers easy targets for shortsighted fans yearning to cast stones.
No drivers have been easier to hook than the Busch brothers, who admit that too often they wallowed with wide-open mouths.
They are, however, working to blend competitiveness with the public’s perception of them.
Yes, Kurt screwed up with his pit-road incident in June when he nearly hit a crewman for Tony Stewart while stopping to gripe at Stewart during a race in Dover, Del. Busch admitted he was wrong, was fined and apologized.
Kurt and Kyle probably will be fined again. So will Stewart and Kevin Harvick, other winners with short fuses.
Nonracers cannot relate to the life-and-death pressure of driving in a pack at nearly 200 mph. We get agitated if the car behind us on the freeway is within two car lengths.
We’d all like to make millions of dollars like some drivers, but few of us would want to star in a weekly reality show like they do.
Let’s race a mile in their boots.
Kurt has won 16 Cup races and the 2004 championship. Kyle has won four times in 100 races, and 45 percent of the time he has finished in the top 10.
The brothers have earned acceptance from their peers. Now their focus is widening to include acceptance by those outside the garage, which is a skill not learned at local tracks.
Kurt went directly from the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to Cup. Respect had to be fought for and earned quickly.
Kyle raced as a professional rookie when he was 16, 17, 18 and 19 years old, advancing to a higher series each year.
Think that’s easy? Try taking a new job in a different city when you still should be in high school or college worrying about prom or clean laundry.
Listening to Kyle on Tuesday when it was officially announced he would join Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008 sounded much like Kurt when he teamed with Penske Racing last season after spending six years with Roush Racing.
Each committed to working to boost his popularity with fans.
The time has come, Southern Nevada, to embrace our native sons.
Kyle said he plans to continue voicing his opinion but will work to improve his image. He won’t turn vanilla, but he’s tired of being rocky road.
Kyle, like Kurt at Penske, recently added a veteran business manager and soon will have better publicists, positions as key as crew chiefs in this era of racing.
Few liked Darrell Waltrip during his heyday. He was too aggressive, brash and outspoken.
Many hated Dale Earnhardt Sr. before he died. He was too aggressive, brash and outspoken.
But each was a winner.
Those characteristics apply to the Busch brothers.
Detractors of Waltrip and Earnhardt are hard to find today.
One day — hopefully soon — it should be the same for Kurt and Kyle Busch.
Jeff Wolf’s motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or email@example.com.JEFF WOLFMORE COLUMNS