Kyle Busch's five greatest feuds
In his 200 career starts, Kyle Busch has gotten into a number of high-profile feuds
Joey Logano's quip about Kevin Harvick's wife has been turned into a t-shirt
Despite Carl Edwards' strength at the track, Kurt Busch is a good bet to win
1. Throughout his 200 Sprint Cup starts, Kyle Busch has emerged as one of the sport's most polarizing figures. Whether you call him a villain or a throwback, reckless or aggressive, put your stock in Old Kyle over New Kyle (is there really a difference?) no one is without a hardened opinion of Shrub; he's like Kobe Bryant in Nomex.
But no one can argue that if there's been one consistent element throughout Busch's first 200 races, it's controversy. It's, at times, made KB wildly unpopular, with crowds booing him harshly during prerace introductions. Busch has said he doesn't mind it, and why should he? Dale Earnhardt Sr. once said he didn't mind the boos, because it means he at least had the fans' attention. Rowdy has gotten our attention, along with that of the rest of the field.
Herewith, a look at NASCAR's current Drama King's five greatest on-track run-ins.
--Busch vs. Casey Mears. Track rage anyone? Mears lost control in the Coca-Cola 600 in 2006, then Busch did the same. After Mears set off a multiple-car accident that sent Busch into the grass, Busch got out of his car and had to be restrained by NASCAR officials as he tossed his HANS device at Mears' passing car. The stunt earned him a 25-point penalty and a $50,000 fine. It's Busch's best tirade, if simply for the absurdity of it all.
--Busch vs. Tony Stewart. What do you get when you mix fire with fire? The two had multiple exchanges in '06 as they got into a bumping match at the Daytona 500 that saw Busch draw a drive-thru penalty for pushing Smoke below the yellow line. A week later in Las Vegas, Busch refused to let a much faster Stewart pass. Stewart later bumped Busch's car and on a late restart, Busch said Tony "was trying to kill me." The future teammates resolved their differences when Busch joined Joe Gibbs Racing, but the tension resurfaced last year when Stewart knocked Busch out of the lead in Daytona.
--Busch vs. Dale Earnhardt Jr. With three laps remaining at Richmond in '08, Busch was battling for the lead with Junior, who was looking to end a losing streak that's still growing. Busch spun Earnhardt out, dropping him back to 15th. Dale Jr. said afterward, "Whether it is far or not, he is going to need some security."
--Busch vs. Jeff Burton. The greatness lies in not the incident, which is debatable, but in the reaction it drew from one of the sport's quiet elders. Seeing the usually mellow Burton go after Busch after being knocked back to 25th at Charlotte was like watching Mr. Rogers launch into a verbal assault.
--Busch vs. Denny Hamlin. There's no such thing as teammates when there's a million bucks on the line. With Shrub gunning for the lead with eight laps remaining in this year's All-Star Race, Hamlin blocked his JGR bro and Busch ended up in the wall and out of contention. Busch parked his car in front of Hamlin's hauler and Joe Gibbs had to intervene. Wrote Hamlin later in his USA Today blog: "Every year I think he'll grow out of it and he just doesn't. It's who he is. Everyone blames it on his passion, but passion doesn't give you a free pass to act like an idiot."
2. Joey Logano's coming-of-age, I'm-through-being-pushed-around moment gave us a whole new way of looking at Busch's JGR teammates after he went after Kevin Harvick postrace in Pocono. But when Sliced Bread quipped that Harvick's wife DeLana "wears the firesuit in the family," he gave the Harvicks a marketing tool they've turned into T-shirts available at kevinharvick.com.
While Logano's given DeLana more of what she seemingly wants, attention, in challenging Harvick's manhood, the 20-year-old driver has created a daunting test of maturity for himself. He has to retaliate, and he has to be smart about it and wait. Spinning out Harvick at Michigan does nothing; doing it during the Chase is another thing. The longer Logano waits, the more he'll be in Harvick's head (think How I Met Your Mother's Slap Bet only at 180 mph). Biding his time and truly costing Harvick will gain Logano real respect.
442: Races the No. 99 car has run at Michigan, dating to 1969
11.6: Average finish in those races with Paul Goldsmith, Charlie Glotzbach, Fred Lorenzen, Ron Keselowski, D.K. Ulrich, Rick Knoop, Jeff Burton and Carl Edwards at the wheel
6.1: Edwards' average finish, including wins in '07 and '08
For the reasons above, Edwards is always a safe pick -- along with any of his Roush Fenway brethren -- but amid a 0-for-2010, should we really believe they'll break through this week? Instead I'm rolling with another Detroit auto manufacturer to reach Victory Lane in Motown's backyard in Kurt Busch. He has wins at Michigan International in '03 and '07, and while he has just one top-10 in the last four races there, his rebirth under Steve Addington makes a turnaround a certainty, not a possibility.
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