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MOORESVILLE, North Carolina -- Don't ever call Kyle Busch a Guitar Hero.
The trophy that goes to the winner of races at Nashville Superspeedway is a specially-prepared Les Paul Gibson guitar that is one of the coolest trophies in sports. IndyCar Series driver Tony Kanaan says the guitar he won at Nashville in 2004 is the prize of his trophy collection, not because of the race that he won but because of the guitar.
So when Busch smashed his guitar trophy after winning Saturday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Nashville, he may have lived up to his word to his crew (more on that later), but he looked like a punk in the process.
Busch thought it would be funny to "act like a rock star" when he got that victory Saturday night in Music City. Trouble is, this is a sport in which trophies should be revered -- not smashed.
There are plenty of us who believe Busch is the best driver in NASCAR, that his ability to win in any type of car -- NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide and Sprint Cup -- sets him in a unique category above other drivers. When things are going Busch's way, he is virtually unstoppable.
He embraces the man in the Black Hat and celebrates his victories by putting his hand to his ear as if to encourage more boos from his critics before taking a big bow. That showmanship has helped make Busch one of NASCAR's biggest stars and a driver worth following throughout the year.
But when things don't go Busch's way, he can be a petulant brat.
Smashing a guitar may sound like a radical thing; it's something that anybody who has listened to rock has thought about before, but most of us outgrow that urge by the time we turn 20. Busch is 24.
Maybe this guy should get his "Guitar Hero" video game taken from him after Saturday night's sad display. Even against mounting criticism, Busch tried to defend his actions before Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Pocono.
"No, that's not controversial, a guy showing true emotion in Victory Lane," Busch said. "It's great to be able to go out and win races. I talked to Sam [Bass, the artist who painted the guitar] and I talked to the Gibson [guitar] people and they all thought it was great, it was fine. What it was to me was to give the pieces to the team. Unfortunately, [the guitar] didn't break on my part, but fortunately for Gibson they have a great product in their guitars and I ordered up two more of them for myself and for my crew chief.
"The one from last night, it will be going to the band saw tomorrow to break it up and distribute it, and I'm to assign the pieces to all the guys on the crew and share it with them. They never get a chance to get a piece of the trophy after we win races; it's the best opportunity for them to get that."
The winner of the Indianapolis 500 doesn't smash the bottle of milk when they get to victory lane or try to mug the Borg-Warner Trophy. And the winner of the Daytona 500 doesn't... well, nobody remembers what that trophy actually is -- something that looks like Sir Malcolm Campbell's Blue Bird speeding down the sands of Daytona Beach in front of grandstands that look like Notre Dame Stadium.
But the point here is Busch could have gotten his yucks by acting like he was going to smash the guitar rather than actually trying to break it.
By destroying it, Busch comes across as being another young punk with disrespect even for winning a race.
"I'll grow up someday," Busch said afterwards. "I just turned 24, so I've got an excuse at least. I'm a sore loser -- always have been. I'll throw the Monopoly board when I lose at Monopoly. It's just that simple -- it's not very fun to lose. My regular Nintendo systems back in the day took a beating from the controllers flying at them. It's just not my style."
A trophy is the most significant thing a race driver can get after winning a race. The money is what keeps these teams going, but the trophy is the everlasting symbol of what inspires a race driver to do what he does.
IndyCar driver Scott Dixon has three guitar trophies from his Nashville wins from 2006 to '08, but smashing one of them was never something he considered.
"It was mentioned to me to smash one of mine before," Dixon told SI.com on the phone Monday afternoon. "It's a cool trophy and it may sound cool to do it but I don't think it's the politically correct thing to do. It's something you should treasure, and I'm sure the people that made it don't like seeing it get smashed. I definitely didn't want to smash mine. I have three of them and I guess I could have smashed one of them because I would have two more after that. But it's by far the coolest trophy I have."
To see Busch attempt to destroy his at Nashville may have done more to harm his reputation as anything he's ever said about another driver or done on the race track.