Monday, November 23, 2015

COMMENTARY: No Asterisk Needed For Busch’s Championship Season

Kyle Busch celebrated his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship Sunday evening at Homestead Miami Speedway, completing one of the greatest comebacks in the history of professional sports. And even before the final scraps of confetti had fluttered to earth, a small-but-determined group of naysayers was already at work, attempting to minimize his achievement. 

As the Joe Gibbs Racing driver smiled for the cameras in Victory Lane, a joyless cadre of Busch bashers began attaching undeserved asterisks to his unlikely championship season, based on a horrifying injury that forced him to miss the first 11 races of the 2015 campaign. 

Busch’s title drive appeared to be over before it began, after a high-speed crash into an unprotected concrete wall during the XFINITY Series opener at Daytona International Speedway in February left him with a compound fracture of his right leg and a broken left foot.
As the Las Vegas native began the arduous task of rehabbing from his injuries, he was granted a waiver by NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France, who accepted personal responsibility for not mandating full SAFER barrier protection at the sport’s most storied venue. France did not change the rules, he simply invoked a clause that has been a part of the Chase format from the beginning; foregoing the “must attempt every race” requirement due to unusual, extenuating circumstances.
That waiver did not lower the competitive bar for Busch. In fact, it did just the opposite, challenging him to accumulate more points in 15 regular-season races than his competition could in 26. He did so with ease, cracking the Top-30 with many weeks still remaining in the regular season and winning four times to punch his ticket to the playoffs.
Busch is not the first driver to be granted such a waiver. Tony Stewart earned similar consideration after missing three races following the death of Sprint Car driver Kevin Ward, Jr. in 2014. Kurt Busch was granted a similar waiver earlier this year, after sitting out an early season suspension related to domestic violence charges leveled by former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. Stewart failed to qualify for the Chase last season. Kurt Busch made the Chase this year, but was unable to advance to the Championship Round at Homestead Miami Speedway.
Only Kyle managed to clear all the obstacles and advance to the title round. And once there, he and his M&Ms Toyota team were simply unstoppable. He paced his fellow title contenders for most of Sunday’s race, before overwhelming leader Brad Keselowski on a final restart and driving away to a decisive, undisputable victory that earned him an opportunity to hoist the Sprint Cup Series championship trophy at long last.
Sunday, Busch put an exclamation point on his likely Hall Of Fame career; winning his 34th Sprint Cup Series race, to go with a record 76 XFINITY Series scores and 44 checkered flags in Camping World Truck Series competition. At age 30, NASCAR’s self-described “King of the Minors” delivered a fourth Sprint Cup title to Joe Gibbs Racing and the first to his longtime manufacturer, Toyota.
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” said Busch in a raucous Victory Lane that included a downpour of M&Ms. “It’s a dream of a lifetime, a dream come true. I just can’t believe it, with everything that happened this year; all the turmoil that I went through, all that my wife and the people around me went through."
Busch called the weeks following his Daytona crash “the hardest thing I have ever gone through” adding, “You don’t know how many times I wanted to stop. I guess you’re a lot tougher than you really realize, physically and mentally. I had to put everything I had into rehab, and into being able to walk.
“I was trying to get prepared for my son’s birth,” he said, “and make sure I could… stand and support Samantha and not worry about being in a wheelchair, stuck on the side of the room."
Cradling son Brexton, a beaming Samantha Busch concurred, saying, “I don’t think people know how hard he worked (and) what we both went through this year. From trying to get pregnant, to the accident, to fighting his way back. It’s just a storybook year. I’m so proud of Kyle and the team.”
In 2015 – at long last – Kyle Busch found a way to slay his personal demons. This time around, there were no petty distractions, no disputes with fellow drivers or his own race team. His on-track talent shined through, as it always has. But this time, that talent was bolstered by a newfound maturity, focus and professionalism.
It made all the difference.
Busch’s path to the 2015 championship was anything but smooth. A 37th-place finish in the second race of the Chase at New Hampshire Motor Speedway but him behind the eight-ball. In past seasons, such a result would have sent Busch on a downward emotional spiral and crippled his championship dream.
This time, though, Busch did not come unraveled.
This time, he dug deep, earning a pressure-filled runner-up finish the following week at Dover that cemented his status as a championship contender.
“I leaned on Kyle Busch pretty heavily,” said first-year crew chief Adam Stevens Sunday. “You just have to get him close. That’s the beauty of Kyle and his talent, skill and dedication. His feedback is so good that I think anybody could adjust on his car. I’m thrilled to be a part of Kyle Busch’s career. He’s a future Hall of Famer, and to be anywhere close to him is amazing for me.”
Even vanquished title contender Jeff Gordon spoke of Busch’s transformation, saying, “I don’t know if ‘grow up’ is the right term. But with what he went through this year, I see a changed Kyle.
“When he came back… you could tell he was racing smarter, with more patience, being more deliberate. Between having a baby, what happened to him at Daytona and the time with his wife; I think he had a lot of time to think about things. He came out of it even better than he was before, and he showed it right away.”
No asterisks, no qualifiers, no ifs, ands or buts.
Just a changed man, basking in the glow of a destiny fulfilled.



  1. I have been a fan of Kyle Busch since the moment it was announced he was let go by Hendrick to make room for Jr. He was the first driver I actually called myself a fan of since my previous favorite Bill Elliott retired.

    Sometimes it was joyous being the fan of the guy everyone hated. I likened it to cheering for the bad guy in pro wrestling. Sometimes it was hard to be his fan. He behaved at times in ways that would make others shy away. Perhaps he should have went over a plan before hand with Sam Bass over the guitar incident. The Hornaday incident was another dark cloud. The thing that made me stick with Kyle was the fire I saw in him. Skipping out on interviews after he finished second demonstrated to me his desire to win. Somewhere along the line he has learned to lose as gracefully as he wins.

    I am torn on the chase berth. I feel 11 races were too many and he shouldn't be eligible. But that's not my call. He raced under the rules presented to him and prevailed.

    Cam Newton recently came under fire for a td celebration. A situation that the media took too seriously. Cam's response was simple, if you do not want me to dance, stop me before the end zone. If today you are upset about Kyle being champion, do not tweet Dave. Instead send a message to your driver asking him/her why they didn't prevent it from happening.

    While I am torn on the issue, I celebrate it nonetheless. I have placed an order for championship merchandise. I also have posted onto Facebook every picture produced that has 2015 champion on it. So I am quickly getting over the eligibility controversy.

    It has been mentioned that multiple championship drivers supplant each each other. Petty never won championship after Dale won his first. Dale never won again after Gordon won his first. Gordon never won again after Johnson won his first. Perhaps Kyle will be the next multiple champion that supplants Johnson.

    Go Kyle. Love the haters.

    1. Wow. I also started being a fan of Kyle when he left Hendrick. You are the first person besides me I have heard say that.

      I am a JGR fan. I am not a Hendrick fan. When he signed Junior away from DEI, Rick Hendrick decided to keep Casey Mears instead of Shrub. Hendrick once said he feels a dagger in his chest every time Kyle wins. I have been a Kyle Busch fan ever since.

  2. I think you wrote and excellent post, I however disagree with you. The points put up by David Regan didn't count, he was asked to win races and be top thirty in points. He deserves it!!!!
    This format makes the chase very interesting!! I think Jimmie and the #48 have more championships in their future!!!

  3. Dwayne in Memphis12:17 PM

    "No asterisks, no qualifiers, no ifs, ands or buts. Just a changed man, basking in the glow of a destiny fulfilled."

    And a hokey, gimmick, playoff system.

    I congratulate Kyle on doing what he did...they set up the rules, and he played by the rules. It's not his fault we crown a champion in a ridiculous way, now. With 30% fewer races to win on the season, he won 5! That's VERY impressive, and there's no denying his accomplishment under the current format. But for more than 10 years we've been "Chasing" - there may be excitement for some, but I just can't help but feel this cheapens how we earn our championships in NASCAR.

    But my feelings on the Chase, aside, there's no denying what Kyle accomplished this year. Literally with 42% fewer "qualifying" races to earn wins or points to qualify just like everyone else in the field did, the man won 4 out of 5 races and EARNED his berth in those 26 pre-Chase races. Anyone that has a problem with him earning his spot, is just hating on Kyle. When you spot the field 11 full races worth of points, and when you show up in race 12 starting at zero...and can STILL qualify...that's earning it. Especially if you're having surgeries and rehab while you're spotting the field those 11 races.

    Congratulations on the Championship,'s not your fault the Chase cheapens what we do, and it doesn't diminish what you accomplished with this format. Right now, nascar uses the chase to crown its champion, and you earned it on the track.

    1. So you think at the end of regular season the nfl should just give the championship to the best record then too right?

  4. Anonymous1:23 PM

    The old "Book of Kyle" is closed. As a new book is written no matter what anyone thinks of him, he will be forever known as Champion.

  5. Anonymous1:45 PM

    The man gives the other drivers an 11 race head start and still wins!! WOW

  6. Replies
    1. Well thought out, Garry. Thanks for sharing your insight with us.

  7. Anonymous3:17 PM

    I really wish NASCAR would quit throwing the now seemingly inevitable late-race 'entertainment value' cautions. Kyle Busch was going to win the championship whether the yellow flag came out or not. Kyle Larson was probably going to win the race had the yellow not come out and quite frankly the battle for the race win between he and Brad Keselowski was likely going to be the more entertaining of the two scenarios.

    Speaking of Kes, his taking the bottom line on the restart so that Busch and Harvick could settle things on their own was a decision that showed nothing but class.

    1. In Nascar's defense, there actually was a piece of metal on the track for that last caution - they did show it on tv. But right before the caution was thrown, I said to my wife, they need a caution now. So it wasn't unexpected.

  8. No asterisk indeed. He was a championship caliber driver all season. It's not like he snuck into the chase, he truly earned it. He also won his first chase race when he needed it the most.

    I can appreciate the old system and season long effort that went into crowning the champ. What I don't miss is it being decided with multiple races left.

    Another more important thing I don't miss is having injured drivers climb into a race car just to start a race to accumulate points. Having a driver drive 10% of the race and getting credit for full points is easily more silly than anything going on now. Not to mention unsafe. Some may think it's courageous and brave to drive injured. I just think it was dumb. Thank goodness those days are behind us.

  9. Of course you would say that.... Then again anyone who would believe that after breaking a leg and foot taking the kids lunch money could come back and win 5 of 6 races would believe he "earned it....
    You keep promoting this reality show called Nascar....

    1. This from a guy who apparently hates the sport, but still feels the need to come here every day and remind us that he's still watching. Like any of us care.

    2. Who peed in Scott's oatmeal? Sheesh. What a pointless comment.

    3. Well... At least you didn't say I was wrong.... If you think my comment was pointless... You don't think for yourself....
      That's what Dave counts on... just agree with whatever he says....
      Of course he needs a huge asterisk... but then so do all of Jimmie's "championships"...... I keep watching to see how much lower they can go.... Going to be hard to top the debacles at Talladega and Martinsville...

    4. He didn't bother saying you were wrong, because it's pretty obvious to anyone but a Black Helicopter Conspiracy Theorist. If you really want to explain something to us, explain why you continue to hang around here, bitching and complaining about everything that moves. If I was as miserable as you, I'd find something else to do with my time. Actually, I'd stick my head in the microwave, just to end the pain. If you don't like NASCAR, take up bowling. And PLEASE, just buzz off and stop wasting our space.

    5. Notice HotWheel doesn't say what other competitors laid down and just let Busch win a whole buncha races.
      Does he really think the likes of Jimmy Johnson and Kevin Harvick are going to perform charitably for Kyle Busch; let alone their own grandmothers out on any racetrack?

      If that's the case... I want to see HWS walk up to Ryan Newman and accuse him of being a pansy and giving away races.

  10. Thanks Dave, great article. I agree with you and kudos to Busch for fighting as hard as he did. Amazing story for our sport

  11. Screw the arm-chair critics that need to have an asterisk... to feel good about themselves and their petty, insignificant lives..
    All the other competitors had an equal, if not greater chance to beat Kyle Busch, but didn't.

    Who among the Cup drivers could say,
    "NOT FAIR!"

    They know what the deal is.
    They got beat by a talent they knew one day would be Cup Champion.

  12. please everyone who pulls for kyle still belives nascar is not an intertainment business, If you take a look at this season everything was set in motion for kyle to be in that position ,all we could here was we cant have a chase without kyle then when it looked like he might not make it he wins 4 of 5 races and poof he is in ....really nascar the late race caution ? .....and brad going to the inside lane where it would put kyle and Harvick pumper to bumper ,by the way only debre found was a water bottle below yellow line not metal as nascar claimed , the fender banging never happened kyle pulled away so no big exciting finish like what could have happened with Larson coming hard running down Brad , im a long time nascar fan who can only see a show that nascar is trying to control instead of the drivers, so I guess since Gordon did not win guess nascar will rig it again where lets see chase elliot will win championship as a rookie driving Gordans old car , enjoy this gift Toyota fans because between Toyota spending double what ford and chevy spent and nascars help they have a tainted championship

    1. Jeez, Ron. Put down the crack pipe and use a little punctuation! LOL

  13. If I ever won something that everyone else had 11 weeks to work on before me I'd be proud of it too.

  14. RobertG.10:39 AM

    I agree that Kyle won the championship under the rules he was given.
    I think the rules should be changed (and have said so since the last set of rules were announced). I think you should have to be in top 25 (or maybe a bit higher). I think you should at least be in the top half of the standings to qualify for the championship.
    Other sports are not happy when people qualify for the playoffs and yet are in the bottom half.
    I say all of this while being a Kyle Busch fan and I have no idea where he finished the regular season.

  15. If KB had run those 11 races that he missed and finished dead last in all of them, he would have had 11 more points at the end of the 26. Any team and driver who had fewer points than Kyle at the end of the 26 should be embarrassed. Congratulations to Kyle Busch and his JGR team.

  16. Dave, I think more people would drop their arguments for an asterisk if they paid closer attention to two points in your article. First, this was not a new rule for just Kyle. Second, he was not resting for those eleven weeks! He was going through very difficult and painful rehabilitation.

    Now, here is one for you. Everyone is talking about Shrub's "transformation." We must assume those first few weeks he was in the hospital recovering, he was being nursed in some very "humbling ways." Think "bedpans." Think "sponge baths." Does that in part explain the transformation, his first acquaintance with humility?

    Whatever it was -- the mentoring of Joe Gibbs, marrying a girl with an M.A. in Psychology, having a child, a traumatic wreck, having to watch other drivers drive his car, or having to learn humility in the hospital bed -- I am glad for the change.

  17. Anonymous3:54 PM

    No asterisk here. Only thing NASCAR waived is "start every race". He still had to win. Still had to make top 30 like everyone else. He by no means had 11 races "off". His rehab regiment to get back was probably just as tough as being in that car...if not more. He worked his ass off to be able to be at his wife's bedside. Getting back in the car was back burner then. It was a total team effort.