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WAID’S WORLD: “Villain” Busch’s Latest Achievement Cements His Legacy

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This is about Kyle Busch – again, but necessary.

After his convincing victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte it occurs to me (and I think perhaps you as well) that he ranks among the best drivers ever to compete in NASCAR.

That declaration may be premature. After all, he’s only 33 years old and, we assume, has many years of competition ahead of him.

But consider the following: Since his rookie season of 2005, when he was just 20 years old, he has won 47 races on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup circuit.

Remarkably he has a record 91 wins in the Xfinity Series. And he’s logged 50 more victories on the Camping World Truck Series.

That’s 188 wins in NASCAR’s top three series.

And he’s earned 100 pole positions.

He was the Monster Series champion in 2015 and has finished no lower than third since. And he is the current points leader. In the last four seasons Busch has won 18 races to date.

His victory at Charlotte was his first in the 600-mile event. But it was historically significant because he became the first NASCAR driver to win a race on every track on which he’s competed.

At his young age he has become the 10th driver in MENCS history to lead at least 15,000 laps.

He was dominant at Charlotte. He led 377 of 400 laps, which prompted more than one rival to declare, “Kyle Busch just kicked our butts.”

 The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was understandably jubilant after his win. It was a victory he wanted badly.

“I’ve dreamt of this race since I was a kid,” Busch said. “Always watched the All-Star race and then the 600 the following weekend. And now being able to come out here and win the 600 is a little boy’s dream come true.

“There is no better feeling than winning this race.”

 When things go his way Busch can be effusive, pleasant and even highly complimentary, as he was to his pit crew after the 600 victory.

But when he feels angered or frustrated he can be sullen and very unpleasant.

That could be said of every driver. They are all highly competitive and can easily become moody when they perceive things don’t go as they should.

However, few have been as publicly prominent as Busch.

That is why many think Busch is a villain.

They take note of the fact that while he was indeed highly pleasant in the glow of his CMS victory, he was as highly unpleasant after the truck race at the track slightly over a week earlier.

Busch finished second after he rallied from two pit crew penalties that dropped him back in the field.

Asked how he overcame, Busch said, “Pure talent. That’s about it. My pit crew did absolutely nothing to help me out tonight. My truck drove like s—.”

Such a rant tends to rankle fans.

I daresay in the past there have been many drivers who have felt the same way. But most did not so colorfully express themselves to the public.

To be fair, Busch is the boss of his truck team and can say what he likes. And his reasoning was, “When you pay people to do a job they either do it well or get fired.”

He makes sense. Still, it is his seemingly arrogant words and presence that many fans do not like – and consequently, they believe he wears the black hat.

I have maintained that while Busch may be a villain, he’s exactly what NASCAR needs.

The sport needs a “bad guy,” the one fans love to hate. He rivets their attention.

There have been many “evil” drivers in the past and they shared one strong trait with Busch. They backed up their words with deeds.

They didn’t only run their mouths they also won races. In some cases they set records. And in so doing they won fans over or at the least earned grudging respect.

I think Busch has already received grudging respect. In time he may well win over many fans.

But as a driver he deserves more than just grudging respect. What he has done commands unfettered respect.

Here is the reality – like him or not, he’s bound for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

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.