Boos Bounce Off Busch, Adam Petty Remembered

Charlotte, NC – Kyle Busch continued to breeze through the 2008 NASCAR season winning the Sprint Cup race Saturday night at Darlington. The victory was his eighth in NASCAR Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series competition this season. That?s not only an incredible number of wins so far this year, but to do them in all three premiere divisions is something that frankly, we?ve never seen the likes of before.

So why is everybody booing?

In Busch?s case, it?s pretty simple. The guy is young, brash, and not afraid to dent a fender ? his or someone else?s. From racing Cup deity Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to Truck Series rookie Colin Braun, few have survived Busch?s front bumper this season.

Even fewer, if any drivers, are going to attempt what Busch will to win a race. He?ll drive a car or truck from the apron all the way up to ? and into the wall – like he did at Darlington numerous times Saturday night. If it works, he?s got a good chance of doing the ?hat dance? in Victory Lane. If he stumbles, his team is breaking out the porta power trying to get what?s left of its racer back into the transporter.

Either way, it draws attention. Some fans cheer, others boo.

The boos reached a crescendo this weekend at Darlington after Busch?s run in with Earnhardt, Jr. in the most recent event at Richmond. There was even talk Busch might need additional security at Darlington this week. True to his 23-year-old in your face demeanor, Busch all but ignored the cat calls, obscenities, and occasional flying objects to silence the ?haters? in the best way possible ? he won the race.

Talk about an ‘up yours’ rejection. Busch?s Saturday Darlington win was the ultimate way to tell his detractors stick their opinions where the sun doesn?t shine. Busch didn’t have to say it that way. His smirk in Victory Lane said it all.

Even in victory, the fans still booed Saturday night ? some even louder than before the race. The media, never one to back away from a juicy story, has continued to fan the flame, penning post-race tomes Sunday with headlines like ?Does Kyle Busch?s Attitude Override His Talent??

Frankly, we laughed right out loud when we read that one. It?s been a rare case in our 50 years in stock car racing where we met a driver whose balls weren’t bigger than their brains once he strapped on a helmet. Racers are the ultimate egomaniacs. They have to be that way if they want to be the best.

There?s no doubt about Kyle Busch in this regard. He thinks he’s the best, bar none. Other than Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, no other drivers out there in Cup totally believes that about themselves. None. Not even the annointed Dale, Jr. believes he’s the best. You can tell how they carry themselves.

Right now, there?s nothing Busch doesn?t think he can achieve in stock car racing. He has incredible machinery that he consistently makes better, a great crew to keep him on the track and in front of the field. He knows he’s holding all the cards. All he has to provide is the attitude that no matter what happens on or off the track, his focus is completely on the prize and nothing else. Do whatever you must to grab it.

Call it attitude, arrogance, immaturity ? whatever you want ? and Busch probably has it. He also is totally empowered – he knows he can win, he has won a lot, and he’ll do anything to win again. He already has most of the trophies, points and money won in NASCAR this season. He and his teams won’t be going away soon, so you can expect more of the same.

Like it or not, Busch is getting the job done. You can boo until your lungs bleed, and it isn?t going to change Kyle Busch. That will come in time as he gets older, has a major crash or two, and decides riding around and finishing 20th each week and being a multi-millionaire isn?t so bad after all. Then he?ll be like most of the other personality devoid somnambulists driving Cup cars today.

In the meantime, enjoy the excitement ? the wins and the controversial crashes -because it?s been a while since we?ve seen someone like this come along.

Gone, But Not Forgotten ?

It?s hard to believe today marks the eighth anniversary of the death of Adam Petty.

On May 12, 2000, Petty was practicing for a NASCAR Busch Series race at New Hampshire International Speedway when his car crashed hard in Turn 3. The 19-year-old driver was killed immediately.

Five seasons before that, Adam Petty was a rotund 14-year-old hanging around the Petty Motorsports NASCAR Truck Series team shops in Thomasville, NC. Each day he?d come to the shop, tinker with his go kart for awhile, and tell anyone who would listen that he was going to be a great driver some day.

More often than not, the team ? including yours truly, the PR director and raceday spotter at the time ? would run him off. We were busy trying to win races for the No. 43 Cummins Dodge and driver Rich Bickle. We didn?t have time for the grandson of the boss to be in the way and in our business.

A couple of years later, I was amazed to see a now slimmed down version of Adam Petty sliding into an ARCA car at Charlotte. Even though it was obvious he had a car way better than the rest of the field, it was still incredible to see Petty win the race and four generations of the greatest family in stock car racing getting their picture taken in Victory Lane that evening.

Petty jumped from the ARCA and American Speed Association ranks to NASCAR by the time he was 17 making his first start in a Busch Series race at Gateway International Raceway in 1998. With just 39 division starts under his belt, Petty made his Cup debut at Texas in April, 2000. Five weeks later, he was dead.

We don?t know if Adam Petty would have been a great NASCAR driver. To this day, we?re not even sure he should have been in that car that fateful day. Some will tell you he was rushed into it and wasn?t ready. I don?t know. The jury was, and always will be, out on those questions.

What we do know is that Adam Petty was a bright light as a person. His youthful exuberance and spirit were incredible. He had grown from an annoying teenager into a fine young man. That?s why his demise is so hard to understand or accept, even eight years later.

Rest well, Adam. You are missed.

Shameless Self Promotion –

If you can spare a couple of extra minutes, click on the enclosed link and read the Close Finishes story on Team ASE Grassroots Racer Jimmy Brandon.

This was a cool story to write because one, it was for my good friends at ASE and their great Grassroots Racing Program and two, the car involved is a 1964 Dodge Polara, the same ride this reporter wheeled in High School!

Best of all, Brandon and the students totally built the car and maintain it at Linn State Technical College where Brandon directs the ASE testing based Automotive Technology Program.

They never had cool stuff like this when I was in school.

To give this story a look, just click here.

This Week ?

It?ll be a busy week for Close Finishes.

We?ve got to pound out a couple of magazine stories and some of our usual other media musings before heading to Lowes Motor Speedway Thursday and practice for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race that will be held there Friday night.

While the Trucks will be zooming around the 1.5-mile oval at Charlotte Friday, we?ll be off to Newton, IA to spot the NASCAR Camping World racing weekend at Iowa Speedway. Normally, not spotting the Truck race at my home track would be a tough pill to swallow for this writer, but this will by my first trip to the Iowa track and I can?t wait.

Everyone who has been to this raceway calls it ?the perfect racetrack.? Designed by Rusty Wallace, the D-shaped, 7/8-mile oval is compared to a big Richmond ? smooth, wide, fast. The garages and track amenities are said to be totally first class.

In addition to being able to compete at a top-notch raceway, this weekend?s Camping World event is sure to be one of the best of the season. It?s a combination East-West race, so that means the best drivers and cars from both divisions are going to be there. Last count was 55 cars are entered and I believe only 36 at most will start.

That means some really good cars are going to go home. Driver Richard Johns and I will be doing all we can to make sure that the No. 59 Sadler-Hamilton Dodge will be in the field at the start and near the front at the finish Sunday afternoon.

It’ll be an awesome weekend of racing competing at Iowa and catching the Truck, Cup and Indy Car qualifying action on the tube.

Make sure you take in as much of it as possible.

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