Every sport has good guys and bad guys. Barry Bonds was certainly a formidable bad guy if you are a fan of America's national pastime baseball. Some guys could be both good and bad guys. New York Yankees third baseman slugger Alex Rodriguez is surely a good guy to Yankees fans, well, until they reach the playoffs. He's pretty much hated by fans of all the other teams.
NASCAR racing legend Dale Earnhardt thrived on being the bad guy, but at the same time was a good guy to millions of racing fans. He was indeed the "Intimidator" and many times in his career went face to face and often fist to fist with the likes of Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace and many others. He made two-time Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte a victim twice in the finale of Bristol Motor Speedway races. One time Labonte came out on top with a wrecked car, the other time he simply had a wrecked car. Earnhardt told reporters that he merely wanted to "rattle Labonte's cage." Labonte and thousands of booing fans saw it differently.
Recently NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series has welcomed another bad boy to the sport. Kyle Busch is making a name for himself both on and off the track. On the track he's special; there are no two ways about it. He can drive the Hell out of his #18 M&Ms Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Off the track Busch is pretty much controversial every time he opens his mouth. A few weeks ago at the circuit's stop in Richmond, Va. Busch was controversial both on and off the track.
During the Nationwide Series race on Friday night Busch and Nationwide Series regular Steven Wallace made contact in the waning laps of the race. Following the race Busch appeared at Wallace's car and the two had a minor confrontation when Busch reached into Wallace's car and said something to him. Steven Wallace retaliated by grabbing Busch's helmet and the two had a little war of words with each other to the reporters interviewing them following the incident.
The following night in the Sprint Cup Series race Busch got into the #88 National Guard Rick Hendrick Chevrolet of fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. and wrecked him. Earnhardt Jr. was the race leader with less than 10 laps remaining in the race and it had been two full years since his last victory in the series. The Richmond crowd showered Busch with about as many boos as Earnhardt Jr.'s father received upon wrecking Labonte a decade before at Bristol.
Busch's hard driving, which many consider to be too hard at some points, often leads to him making mistakes that sometimes affect other drivers around him. At 23, he is still a very young driver with a lot to learn. Not only does this mean he has time to mature, in a way that Waltrip and Rusty Wallace did as they grew older, it also means he's going to get better in skill, which should be a scary thought to his competition seeing as how he already leads the series in the point standings.
It's probably safe to assume that bad attitudes run in the Busch family at young ages, both Kurt Busch's face and Jimmy Spencer's fist can attest to that. However, the elder Busch has shown at least some maturity in the past few seasons. In time, Kyle Busch might grow up as well. For now though, Busch seems to enjoy being the bad guy on the Sprint Cup circuit.
There are definitely other drivers in the sport that fans deeply dislike; in fact nearly every popular driver is disliked by many. Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Earnhardt Jr. are all deeply hated by many of the sport's fans. Busch is merely the young punk on the scene and he will likely relish in it.
Bad guys are good for the sport of NASCAR not only does it lead to controversy and a boost in the television ratings it also has the opportunity to blossom into a good rivalry. Rivalries are always good for sports and if Busch can develop a rivalry with one of the top driver's of the sport it would be a very welcomed gift to the sport. Even though Busch is likely the most hated driver in the sport at this moment ultimately the higher-ups who run NASCAR know that Busch is a good thing for the sport. Like the old shoot ‘em ups at the end of old time western movies fights between the good and the bad always remain popular.
By Julian Spivey