Mark Martin makes a pit stop during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sharpie 500 in Bristol, Tenn., Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
We've seen this movie before: Uber-talented driver can't seem to put emotional demons behind him.
Despite having everything he needs to win races and championships, the driver is his own worst enemy.
That driver was Tony Stewart, whose frequent tirades once were a detriment to his career. That driver now is Kyle Busch, who seems never to lose a race because someone that day was better. You'ver heard his latest rant, right? How Brian Vickers drove him too hard in last week's Nationwide Series race, though Vickers didn't wreck Busch or even get too aggressive.
Yes, Busch is emotional, but just as Stewart before him, he often lets his rage get the best of him instead of letting his superior talent and top equipment work for him. As soon as somebody gets under his skin, it's all over.
It might be noted that Stewart won two Cup titles despite his tendency to self-destruct, but he probably also lost a couple for the same reason. When things were going well for Smoke, he could ride that wave to incredible streaks of success. When one thing went wrong, however, he would take it home with him and to the next track the next week.
Busch, you might remember, was on top of the world at this time a year ago, dominating races and putting himself as the clear favorite to win it all. However, the Chase started off poorly and he didn't have the maturity to overcome that. Most figured it was a lesson that needed to be learned, that he would come out this year and be able to put the big and little things behind him.
Didn't happen, and, in fact, it's gotten worse, as can be concluded by his status outside the Chase field heading into Saturday night's race at Bristol. It's almost like last season's success created a monster. Busch entered the season not humbled by what happened in the Chase at all and seems to believe that he should win every race, and if that doesn't happen, it's because somebody cheated him somehow.
After his spat with Vickers, which included a run-in on pit road where Busch actually flipped Vickers' visor, the two had to sit side by side in the Michigan International Speedway media center for a news conference. Vickers, who has seen this act before, didn't pull any punches.
"Typical Kyle Busch," Vickers said. "Crying like a little baby. Kyle was crying like a little girl after the race, and he came up and was whining because I raced him so hard. I thought this was racing. I thought this was what we were supposed to do. I'm so sorry. I forgot this was the 'Kyle Busch Show.'"
Following his win in lasat Sunday's Cup race, Vickers was a little more subdued about the incident. He did, though, sum up the problem with Busch.
"In a lot of ways, I feel sorry for Kyle, that he lives that angry about stuff, something so small," he said. "I hope that he can get past it."
Stewart somehow managed to do it, so there's no reason to believe Busch can't. To his credit, the volatile driver, after winning the Truck Series race at Bristol on Wednesday, admitted he has a problem.
"I'm my self's biggest critic," Busch said in his postrace interview. "This definitely helps out and gets me back in the right mindset and gets me back in the right frame."
But what would his comment have been had someone "raced him too hard" and beat him? Busch still has time to turn this around, but he won't make the Chase unless he gets hold of his emotions and runs off top-five finishes.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...