Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Busch was right to speak his mind

I expected there would be a little bit of blowback against Kyle Busch for what he said when he got out of his race-winning car Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, and we’re certainly hearing it.

Busch won the Food City 500 and then basically used victory lane as a platform to tell everybody the car of tomorrow – and this is the word he chose – "sucked."

He called the new car a "thing" about 20 different ways and said it was "terrible" and no fun to drive. Now keep in mind he did most of this as he was being interviewed as the winner just before they handed him the big trophy.

I have to admit that I was a little bit surprised when one reporter asked a NASCAR official if Busch’s use of "sucked" might draw him any kind of penalty for using bad language on television. As unpleasant as you might think that term is, it’s not a word the Federal Communications Commission has among those that can get television networks fined when someone uses them.

Every time someone says "hell" or "damn" in a postrace interview now, I get 20 or more e-mails asking me why that guy doesn’t get fined the way Dale Earnhardt Jr. did for his use of another four-letter word after a win at Talladega a couple of years ago.

You will note that I didn’t write the word Earnhardt Jr. used, and that should tell you something right there. It’s a word that, right or wrong, is considered "wrong" beyond whatever limit might be drawn on language that’s fair game in public discourse.

You might consider "hell" or "damm" or even "sucked" just as bad, but the people drawing the lines on such things don’t. When it comes to television, that line is drawn specifically by the FCC. The reason Earnhardt Jr. got penalized is that the word he used is considered obscene by the FCC and that put the network carrying that race – along with the stations that aired the broadcast – at risk of being fined. NASCAR penalized Earnhardt Jr. to stop others from putting the TV guys in that predicament again.

It’s not NASCAR’s rule that the Earnhardt Jr. word is worth a points deduction and these other words aren’t. It’s the government’s. The blowback that I expected and am hearing for Kyle Busch regards the attitude his words represent.

Some fans feel that Busch gets paid pretty well to put up with the challenges of driving whatever race car they strap him into and that he should just shut up and drive it. Others feel that, at the very least, Busch’s remarks could have been saved for later instead of being part of his initial reaction after a victory.

I reject the first reaction. Busch and the rest of the drivers in NASCAR’s top series have not only the right but the responsibility to be honest with the fans about what they believe. There’s nothing worse than a guy who’s being an obvious shill for NASCAR because he believes sucking up will help him down the road. Fans see right through that. Some drivers go too far in complaining about virtually everything NASCAR does (some of us in the media are guilty of that, too), but no driver should be expected to swallow his tongue before giving what might be considered a "negative" response.

On the other hand, maybe Busch could have tempered his initial remarks to some degree. "We still have a lot of work to do on this new car," which is one of the things Busch said, sounds a lot better than saying "this thing sucks." And maybe victory lane isn’t the place to proclaim your verdict on a car you’ve just raced for the first time.

This new car that NASCAR debuted last weekend isn’t the one these drivers are used to. Until they’ve raced it a few times, they won’t know what "good" is in terms of how this car handles. All they know now is that it almost universally was felt not to be as "good" as the old car, which is the only car most of these guys have ever raced in at this level.

But as soon as the Bristol race was over, everybody wanted drivers to "grade" the car of tomorrow project. Some guys, including the race winner, elected to do so. I think it’s awfully hard to be too critical of a guy for simply giving you an honest answer to your question, no matter how bad the question might be.


Anonymous said...

David, I agree with you again about Kyle saying what was on his mind. I would add that if Tony or Jr. had said the same thing after winning, most of the response might have been positive.

"Yes, that Tony Stewart (or Jr.) tells it like it is. He is the voice of the Cup driver. Go getum Tony."

brett1963 said...


I dont have a problem with Kyle bad mouthing the car. I do think it was inappropriate to do so immediately in Victory Lane, there are plenty of better places to do that such as shows like yours and various other radio/TV shows, etc. While Kyle is a good driver and destined to be a very good one, he does nothing for himself by spouting off that crap right after winning the first COT race. It just further perpetuates his already bad image of a punkish brat. I think a little more gratitude and less attitude is called for in Victory Lane.

Anonymous said...

Nobody would ever mistake me for a Kyle Busch fan but I have to back up his right to say what he really thinks. 90% of the NASCAR Cup drivers would've given the run-of-the-mill PC answer that pleases NASCAR in that situation. As a fan I appreciate the handful of drivers who are honest, like it or not.

Anonymous said...

I think Kyle Busch had every right to say what he said - I love it when someone actually says what's on their mind whether I agree with it or not...and I never agree with Kyle Busch.

But, seriously, I know the COT debuted this weekend and that's big news...but I believe bigger news has been glossed over in all the excitement - THEY'RE TEARING UP BRISTOL!!!!

Explain that one to me.

Ken P said...

Mention your sponsors, thank your team, and answer the Victory Lane reporter's questions the way a driver see's fit.

This could be the only time all year that Busch wins a race, or any other driver for that matter. The platform that they have in their hands is too good to pass up.

I am not a Busch fan, but good for him! The sport needs less "suck ups" and more drivers willing to say things the way they see it.

Corporate cardboard-cutouts do not provide insight or interesting feedback as to how they view happenings in the sport.

Anonymous said...

Not a fan of the Shrub in any way, shape or form, but I have absolutely no problem with what he said on Sunday or how he chose to say it. People are looking to pile on cause they don't like him, that's all.

Bruce E Simmons said...

Blowback or not, Kyle Busch stated his mind and that is a refreshing perspective after hearing so many company line minded interviews. In Professional Bowling, we have rules that state unequivocally that participants will not say bad things about the lane conditions, bowling alley, etc.. I suspect other sports or sponsor contracts may have similar rules, or that players just want to keep sponsors and hosts happy by making everything rosy and bright.

You hear it all the time in pre-race interviews. There always seems to be 43 drivers who can win the race. I don’t think they’re going to disappoint their sponsors by saying their cars are crap, are they?

We know the language rules are not NASCAR rules, but then who is it on to delay the broadcast so things can be caught? NASCAR, to stipulate in their TV contracts? The stations broadcasting? The driver speaking? This is more or less a team effort between all three.

With NASCAR constantly capping the emotional outbursts that sometimes brings the fans into the sport, we need some excitement, but the excitement is being “fined” right out of the sport as behavior deemed inappropriate for NASCAR. This wave of oversight didn’t really become prevalent until the big time TV contracts came about, so who’s really behind that. Is NASCAR toeing the line for the media?

Busch gets paid well because he has talent that can expose the sponsor on a weekly schedule to the television audience. I think speaking his mind is his right unless it starts hurting the sponsor and or the sport. If anything, it made media. It’s a new car design. People will be adjusting all over the CUP series and we now have a better perspective on the drivers adjustment to the “flying brick”. Yes, Busch could have been more constructive, but every now and then, we still see shards of his youthful enthusiasm show through.

'Nuff said.

Monkeesfan said...

Kyle Busch merely stated what over a year of testing had already proven with the COT - it is a fundamentally unsound design. This may have been the first race with the COT but after a year of testing one would think that this should be enough to judge whether this project is worth anything or not.

The COT is supposed to improve the racing - at Bristol and in all of the testing done the leader was home free; the top five stayed where they were; the rest of the field were stuck outside the top five.

The notion that the teams can make a good racecar out of this design is stupid wishful thinking on the part of NASCAR - the design punishes aggressive driving and aggressive setups. You can never improve the racing if you punish aggressive driving and setups.

Anonymous said...

The article on NASCAR's new "Car of Yesterday" on the website for "The Onion" ( www.theonion.com ) is pretty good.

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