Love him if you will, hate him if you must. But either way, Kyle Busch is something special.
NASCAR’s most polarizing driver did a lot of winning last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, becoming the first driver in the 67-year history of NASCAR to sweep a two-race Xfinity/Sprint Cup Series race weekend, by winning both events from the pole.
Richard Petty never did it, nor did Dale Earnhardt. Mark Martin came up short, as did everyone else in the long and illustrious history of North American stock car racing. Busch did it last weekend – with ease -- authoring a pair of performances so ridiculously dominant that they appeared little more than child's play.
His NOS Energy Toyota led all but one of 63 total laps in Saturday's Lilly Diabetes 250 at the Brickyard, smothering its pursuers on a day marked by a triple-digit heat index and 125-degree in-car temperatures. By the time the halfway flags flew, the question was no longer, "Will Kyle Busch win?"
The question was, "by how much?"
Sunday's flogging was no less brutal, with Busch leading 149 of 170 laps in the Combat Wounded Coalition 400. No stock car racer in the history of the Brickyard had ever dominated an event so thoroughly, and it's unlikely that anyone will ever do so again.
"I do a lot of things that nobody has ever done before," said Busch, moments after delivering the now-customary flourishing bow that prompted the Indianapolis grandstands to erupt in a torrent of catcalls. It's not what Busch says that sets fans' teeth on edge.
It's that he so damned right, so damned often.
Busch long ago stopped paying attention to the blustering boo birds. In fact, he actually seems to relish the hatred that spews forth from the cheap seats, channeling that tidal wave of negativity into the motivation he needs to accomplish even more, next week.
Busch is stock car racing's version of the Crazy Cat Lady, hoarding trophies one after another. His 16 NASCAR seasons have seen him accumulate 166 combined wins in the sanctioning body's three national series. Sunday's Brickyard win was his 38th in Cup competition, and he's been to Victory Lane an additional 48 times in the Camping World Trucks. Each NASCAR Xfinity Series score extends his own all-time record, after he long ago surpassed NASCAR Hall Of Famer Mark Martin's once unassailable slate of 49 career wins. Today, Busch is just 15 victories from doubling Martin's total, a milestone that -- at his current pace -- will almost certainly come in the next three years.
Busch is without question the best pure wheelman in the sport today. Part Rembrandt, part Rocky Marciano, he can finesse his way to Victory Lane with amazing feats of car control, or play the "bump and run" card without a single qualm of conscience.
Marriage and fatherhood have softened him in certain ways, to be sure. But they have done nothing to extinguish his considerable competitive fire. NASCAR's defending Sprint Cup Series champion lives to win races, whether it's a Sunday Sprint Cup, Saturday Xfinity or Friday Camping World Truck Series event. He'll even show-up for a Super Late Model race on an off-weekend.
It's all the same to Busch. Just another opportunity to bludgeon the competition, yet again
We love to root for underdogs in this country. It's the American Way. We build statues to Rocky Balboa, then tear our beloved underdogs into tiny little pieces when they commit the unpardonable sin of winning too often.
“I'm hard on myself and I might be hard on my guys,” admitted Busch a few years ago, awash in celebratory champagne after a historic Truck/Xfinity/Cup three-peat at Bristol Motor Speedway. “But it boils down to the desire to win, wanting to win and trying to work toward that goal.”
He doesn’t care how you feel when he – and to a lesser extent, other Sprint Cup Series drivers – "drops down" to compete in the Xfinity and Truck ranks. To him, it's just another day at the races; an opportunity to put another notch in his gun belt and add another trophy to his already sagging mantle.
So go ahead and boo, if it makes you feel better. Roar your disapproval to the heavens, write a poison-pen letter to the editor, spew invectives on the national radio shows and call him every dirty name in the book. Knock yourself out, but don’t delude yourself into thinking that your opinion matters.
Kyle Busch is going to win, and win often. And when he does, he’s going to celebrate just long enough for the photographers to capture it all on film, before turning his attention to next week's conquest.
"Kyle is one of the most awesome talents," said Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick in 2007, not long before his relationship with Busch came unglued (in part) because of Kyle’s sometimes-challenging personality. "I compare Kyle to Tim Richmond, and that's saying a whole lot about car control. He's got that desire to win, he doesn't like to run second and he doesn't want to wait.”
Truer words were never spoken.
Accept them if you will.