He’s the antithesis of Dale Earnhardt Jr. in every way and his fans are well aware and don’t care. Because that’s what they like about him and when the time comes they can be just as large in numbers and can get their point across.
Kyle Busch and his fans have perfected the art of being outspoken. Last weekend in Texas it was hard to tell which of the two were tossing out more harsh words.
It all started on Saturday when Carl Edwards beat Busch in the Nationwide Series race on a late restart that appeared to have jumped the restart. In a post race interview Busch started blasted Edwards and NASCAR and threw out a few words that started with the letter ‘F.’
The following day it became much, much worse.
His No.18 M&M’s Toyota could have been a contender for the race win, even after spinning on lap 159 since he had kept it off the wall and didn’t have any damage. But NASCAR deemed Busch to be speeding on pit road to avoid going a lap down. He was called back to pit road to serve a one lap penalty.
That didn’t sit well with the driver and he began to let NASCAR know exactly how he felt about them. That included more four letter words, plenty of ‘F’ bombs and even a one fingered salute. In response, NASCAR called Busch back down pit road to this time serve a two lap penalty for what they deemed ‘unsportsmanlike behavior’ a term commonly used in football.
Upon hearing that their driver might be facing further penalties their frustration surfaced. To them Busch was just showing his emotion, something that he’s very good at and NASCAR can’t fine a driver for being emotional.
Others didn’t agree that he should have been penalized in the race and since he was, there was no need to further penalize him. The most common defense for Busch was that NASCAR had opened the door when they initiated the ‘Boys have at it’ policy before the year began.
The policy doesn’t cover NASCAR officials and Busch stepped over the line.
On the Tuesday following the race, penalty day, Busch was handed a fine from NASCAR for his behavior. He paid the $25,000 and apologized and acknowledged his probation until the end of December.
Busch may have moved on but his fans certainly haven’t.
Following the penalty they took to the social networking site Twitter to send NASCAR their thoughts. Most of them, as you can imagine weren’t pretty. Then there were others who decided to take a different route.
That’s what his fans were feeling like and how they interpreted the situation and as such they have changed their Twitter aviator to a black sheep. A black sheep is someone that’s regarded as a disgrace to a certain group and to his fans NASCAR put Busch in that position.
One such fan, Hank Kershell, who goes by @HankKershell on Twitter, from Arlington, TX, nearly exploded as much as Busch did. Kershell is now boycotting the last two races of the Sprint Cup Series season but will continue to support the driver that he’s been a fan of since 2004.
“Back when it was just me, his mom and dad and Grandma,” he said with a laugh. “Well, just about.”
For Kershell he doesn’t like when Busch tries to reign in his emotion, even though it can land him in trouble like it did at Texas. When that emotion is reigned in, he says, it’ll start to diminish how much Busch wins. As long as Busch gives it 100% every time, no matter where he ends up, it’ll still be exciting to watch.
Texas though, “Kyle had an emotional meltdown during the race and I was OK with the fine,” he said. “I would have had a problem with further points penalties.”
The black sheep comes from what Kershell says is penalizing a driver that does a lot for the sport and gets little in return.
“I finally got tired of everyone always trying to treat Kyle like a little child when no one is bring in more new fans to the sport,” he said. “Although I agree with the penalty, their [NASCAR] statement afterwards was pretty condescending as well. No one watching really cares if some official gets flipped off – especially since the official never saw it. Kyle gets flipped off more than anyone in America; many fans are far more childish with less class than Kyle. And there are little kids around them when they do it.”
Many other NASCAR fans around the globe may not meet his passion or conviction by traveling this past, but the sport does have some of the best fans in the world. For now though, Kershell isn’t alone in his black sheep support.
Brandie Merrill, @Kbm18 on Twitter, from Logantown, Pa has been a Busch fan since his rookie season, and she too has changed her aviator to a black sheep. What drew her to Busch was the fact that all he wants to do is win races but also acknowledges that sometimes his actions aren’t appropriate.
“We are all human and we all make mistakes,” said Merrill. “And we all get through them and go on and that’s what I love about Kyle – he’s human and he doesn’t try to be someone that’s he’s not.
“He was already hot under the collar from the last restart on Saturday in the Nationwide Series race when Carl Edwards jumped the restart and NASCAR didn’t do anything about it … I wouldn’t blame him one bit, I say he had all the right to be mad like he was.”
The official being flipped off came from the fact that he was an easy target, says Merrill, since he had to stand in front of the car. That didn’t put Busch in the right though, she said. The additional fine was a different story.
“Maybe NASCAR shouldn’t have made it that high but they did,” said Merrill.
The reason for Merrill’s black sheep was a little different than Kershell’s.
“I changed my aviator to the black sheep in support of Kyle because of the weekend that NASCAR hanged him. I had always thought of Kyle, not only by all the haters, but NASCAR at times as the black sheep,” she said.
NASCAR doesn’t want Busch to keep winning and breaking the records that he is her theory.
“I have a couple of followers that are on the same mission as I am by displaying the black sheep,” said Merrill. “They said that they will change it when Kyle wins his next Cup race. As for me, I haven’t decided yet, I’ll support it as long as I think I should.”
The frustration is still evident in Busch fans even a week after the incident. Their Twitter pages continue to light up and the army of black sheep continues to grow. Appears that sometimes it takes more than a bag of M&M’s to deal with the aftermath of a bad day at the races.