NASCAR: Stop Trying To Make Kyle Busch The Villian

Apr 2, 2016; Martinsville, VA, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (18) celebrates after winning the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 2, 2016; Martinsville, VA, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (18) celebrates after winning the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at Martinsville Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports /

There are a lot of adjectives that could be used to describe reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, but villain should not be one of them.

When Carl Edwards booted Kyle Busch on the last lap of The Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway a couple weeks ago everyone saw controversy on the horizon. Breaths were held, all eyes were glued to the television screen, and the NASCAR community eagerly awaited for what was about to unfold between the Joe Gibbs Racing teammates.

Unfortunately for the media and fans, nothing happened.

Kyle Busch seemed upset that he blew his opportunity to win the race in the final corner of the racetrack, but he didn’t take pot shots at his teammate or blame him for the incident. With no controversy to sell to the NASCAR community, and no audio clips of the defending champion trashing his teammate, media reporters jumped into action to sell a different story.

The result was a headline in their news feed about how Kyle Busch deflected questions in the media center regarding his teammate bumping him out of the way to win the race on the final lap. Anti-Busch fans drummed up rhetoric about how rude Busch was and how unlucky Edwards was to have him as a teammate. Sure, Busch was probably upset at himself for throwing the race away in the final turn of the track, but he was much more relaxed then what reporters and fans are giving the defending Sprint Cup champion credit for.

What made the snafu worse was the way some media and fans seemingly decided to make something out of literally nothing. I could understand if there was some kind of visible sign that Kyle Busch was specifically unhappy with Carl Edwards and acting arrogant in front of cameras, but no such evidence exists to support it even being worth talking about.

Sure, Kyle Busch seemed annoyed at the questions and didn’t give the reporters the blockbuster answer’s they wanted, but that’s no reason to sensationalize it and make something out of absolutely nothing. In fact, reporters seemed to be almost intentionally trying to anger the defending champion and trying to get him to go another rant. Fans of Edwards were even worse as they took to social media to bash Busch for not patting Edwards on the back after the race.

If you got moved out of the way hundreds of feet before winning a race would you pat that person on the back?

Busch took the high road during his interview in the media center and answered with the following when asked about the last lap pass from his teammate.” My Banfield Camry was really great today. We had a great race car and my guys made some awesome adjustments to it, so it was good for us to have an opportunity to run and race for the win like that!”

He answered the next question about Carl Edwards by saying, “my guys give me great racecars each and every week and we continue to have fast Camry’s so well be continuing to run up front and race for wins.” No negativity, no pot shots, no bitterness, but somehow reporters and fans take that and want to run with it as if the comments make him a bad person or something.

While it is understandable that journalists, myself included, may sometimes look too far into a story  to achieve a desired result, it becomes completely ridiculous when journalists look so far into something that literally wasn’t there to begin with. The story also looked like reporters were almost desperate to catch the defending Sprint Cup Champion in a snafu, even asking the question multiple times.

NASCAR fans aren’t much better as they helped perpetuate the non-story throughout the following week.

Busch’s incident at Richmond wasn’t the first time that the media tried to paint him as the villain either. The defending Sprint Cup champion was highly criticized in the media for accidentally running over a fan during last months race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Not only was this not exactly the case, especially since many outlets failed to mention that the woman was in a restricted area and not watching what she was doing, a lot of media (and again, fans) brought up his past incidents and painted him as a poor representation of the sport.

Finally, there was the waiver champion debacle. While Busch did work very hard to return to the track and make the Chase after suffering two brutal injuries during a crash at Daytona International  Speedway in 2015, some mainstream sports media (and millions of fans) still devoted article after article and conversation after conversation to why he didn’t deserve the championship.

Needless to say, it was a long and opinionated off-season for Busch.

Although the media (and fans) did a have a point, especially since Kyle Busch was the first driver to use the waiver rule and win the Sprint Cup Champion, they always seemed to play down his monumental accomplishments from that season and just wanted to focus on how he didn’t run every race that year.  They seem to forget that Busch won three straight races, survived three straight rounds of eliminations and battled a four-time  and retiring champion in Jeff Gordon to win the title.

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With that being said, it has become obvious that many in the NASCAR universe are intentionally trying to vilify Kyle Busch and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so. I think this sorry excuse for a story should be a huge wake up call to all fans, media and journalists, myself included for several anti-Kyle Busch rants over the years, and we should all stop trying so desperately to turn nothing into something worth paying attention to.

In the end, opinions are perfectly fine to share with the public, but they become less credible when there are no facts behind them. While it might be easy to paint a driver like Kyle Busch as the villain of NASCAR, especially with the way that most fans already view the defending Sprint Cup champion, it is doing a disservice to NASCAR fans everywhere not to keep them accurately informed and letting our own biases take over the story.