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WAID’S WORLD: Score One For The Villain At Chicagoland

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What did you think of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race at Chicagoland?

Yeah, I liked it too. And for the same reason you did.

The race ended with a nail-biting, slam-and-bam finish that is not the norm in NASCAR. So when it happens it follows that we are all very excited.

This type of melodrama is rare but not as much as you might think. Over the years there have been several riveting finishes that have become part of NASCAR lore.

Just a few: Richard Petty and David Pearson at Daytona in 1976. Petty, Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison at Daytona in 1979. Darrell Waltrip and Benny Parsons at Charlotte in 1980. Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven at Darlington in 2003. Dale Earnhardt and Just About Everybody Else.

There are more, some of which you undoubtedly know well. But you get the idea.

The finish at Chicagoland was the best of the season. But it drew more attention – and reaction – because it involved the driver who polarizes fans more than any other.

I’ve said before that Kyle Busch is NASCAR’s villain. I have also said that he is the type of competitor NASCAR needs. He can be arrogant, rude and a smart aleck. But he backs all of it up with deeds. He wins races.

He won his fifth of the year at Chicagolandand that ties him with Kevin Harvick for the most this season. The two are part of a quartet of competitors who have dominated the competition.

Busch, Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer have combined to win 15 of the 17 races run to date. That’s not good for NASCAR.

But back to Busch. He engaged is some roughhouse driving with Kyle Larson over the last couple of laps that had us at the edge of our seats.

Larson shoved Busch into the wall. Busch kept control as Larson took the lead. Then Busch bumped Larson’s rear end. Larson dangerously slid but lost only one spot as Busch bounced of the wall – again – and went on to win.

Instead of good, hard racing many fans chose to interpret it as more villainy on Busch’s part. They booed.

True to form, Busch responded in his own, unrepentant way.

“I don’t know what you are whining about,” he said on camera as the boos rained down. “If you don’t like this type of racing then don’t watch.”

Then he did a “crybaby” act as the TV camera closed it.

Although I clearly understand why Busch was so vilified by fans, especially on social media, I have to admit I thought he was, well, funny.

It seemed clear that Busch and Larson had no animosity toward each other, even to the point of smiling and shaking hands. To them it was a helluva contest.

“Yeah, I mean, I hit him first, so…  I roughed him up, he roughed me up,” Larson said. “That’s racing.

“I have a lot of respect for Kyle Busch.  He has a lot of respect for me.  Yeah, I mean, like I said, that was hard racing.  I had a lot of fun.”

Now to be honest, I would not be surprised if there was a voice in Larson’s head that said: “Payback is a bitch.”

Well, maybe not.

Nevertheless, the points here are threefold: The finish was classic, one that we’ll remember for a long time and one that NASCAR, presently in the doldrums, needed badly.

The winner was an established star that has become one of the season’s most dominant competitors – and shows no sign of letting up.

But he’s also the villain. He’s the fans either love or hate. And those who do not like him are very vocal.

I’ve said this before. He’s the kind of driver NASCAR needs.

And at Chicagoland I think he showed us why.

EMAIL STEVE AT steve.waid@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW STEVE ON TWITTER: @SteveWaid

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

Steve Waid

Steve Waid has been in motor sports journalism since 1972, the year he first started covering NASCAR, when he started his newspaper career at the Martinsville (Va.) Bulletin. From there Waid spent time at the Roanoke Times & World as well as NASCAR Scene, where he was the executive editor for 10 years. After retiring in 2010 he became the Vice President of Unplugged Auto Group for its website, MotorsportsUnplugged.com and has now joined POPULAR SPEED as an editor and columnist. Waid has won numerous writing awards and other such accolades. In January of 2014 he was inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame.