There is nothing NASCAR fans love more than to boo a villain. And which villain do they love to hate? None more than Kyle Busch, winningest driver in NASCAR history (but only if you look at wins in all classes—Cup, Truck, and Xfinity—which is a little misleading).
A new documentary looks into the hate/hate relationship we all have with the younger Busch brother, but it also shows that fans not only hated the six-years-older Busch brother Kurt, but also their father, Tom Busch when he was racing Limited Late Model Division on dirt tracks in their native Nevada.
Why do we love to hate the Busches? It’s a little complicated.
Could it be because of Kyle's success? Nah, it’s not just that, though an earlier generation of fans hated four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon just because he won so much, looked good, had a beautiful wife, and who knows why else? But they hated Kyle Busch as soon as he entered Cup full time, which was two years after he first entered a Cup race.
“Kyle Busch turns 18, finally he gets to come back to NASCAR, and he does it in such a big way,” said NASCAR on Fox pit reporter Jamie Little.
“We all knew he had the ability,” said ESPN NASCAR reporter Marty Smith. “For him to come in and make an impression at all, was a victory in and of itself. So Kurt gets to big-time NASCAR, and he’s racing like a bat outta hell with his hair on fire. He’s pissing off everybody in the garage left and right, what happens? He starts getting booed. Well then, by the time Kyle gets there it’s old hat.”
“My first Busch Series race that I ever ran—driver intros I got booed,” recalls Kyle in one of several interviews in the documentary. “Never ran a NASCAR race, never really done anything, people don’t really know who I am, but they know my name. My name was Kyle Busch, younger brother of Kurt Busch.”
“Kyle was going to get booed because the entire fan base equated him to his brother,” said Smith. “To Kurt’s defense, Kyle proved that he also was: a pain in the ass, a hot head, intolerant of anything but winning. But they had an X Factor, they’re so damned good it’s undeniable.”
Kyle continued to irritate fans and sponsors with what he said off-track, and fellow racers with what he did on track. In many ways he was his own worst enemy.
Ricky Hendrick, son of highly successful team owner Rick Hendrick, was very close to the young driver, and would serve as a calming presence when Kyle might otherwise have gotten himself into more trouble. But Ricky was tragically killed in a plane crash that also took the lives of nine members of Hendrick Motorsports and the extended Hendrick family. Suddenly, the calming presence that could have guided young Kyle was gone and with it, any hope of keeping Kyle in line.
“He wore his heart on his sleeve,” said Little. “When he won, he is the happiest dude in the world and everyone is like, ‘Man, this guy is talented.’ But when the day didn’t go right, it’s not good.”
The documentary is an hour and 41 minutes long, and seems to answer the question, "Why do we hate Kyle Busch?" Maybe because he keeps asking for it.
The film will make its worldwide premiere at a special event in Nashville on June 23, prior to that weekend’s Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway. On June 29, Rowdy will screen for one night only in theaters nationwide.