Kurt Busch: Why the Loathed Sprint Cup Star Is No Different from Fan Favorites

Ben Montedonico@@NASCARBRBenContributor IIIMay 16, 2012

Kurt Busch is just one of many unpredictable personalities of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Kurt Busch is just one of many unpredictable personalities of the NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesGeoff Burke/Getty Images

I'm thinking of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver.

This particular driver is known for his aggressive racing style and has a history of in-car radio meltdowns and post-race altercations.

He drives a Chevrolet in NASCAR's top level, won multiple races a year ago and made the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Can you guess who it is?

If you guessed Kurt Busch, you are correct, as the 2004 Sprint Cup champ was one of the right answers.

Among the slew of other possible answers were fan favorites Kevin Harvick and defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart.

It's no secret following the 2012 season's 11th race that Busch is not popular among race fans, or really anybody, for that matter.

Known for his fiery personality, which has gotten him in trouble both on-track and off on several occasions, Busch had another run-in with a fellow Sprint Cupper Saturday night at Darlington.

Busch had an altercation with Stewart's driver, Ryan Newman, after the two tangled late in Saturday night's Southern 500.

This was the latest of an ongoing saga that dates back to last year, when Busch's in-car anger issues became evident.

Kurt Busch has dealt with several frustrating heartbreaks in 2012
Kurt Busch has dealt with several frustrating heartbreaks in 2012Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Following a late wreck, a frustrated Busch, who'd just had another terrific run go for naught after a second-consecutive late-race crash, did a burnout leaving his pit stall and ran through Newman's in the process while Newman's crew was still cleaning up after a stop.

After the race, Busch ran into Newman's car on pit road in what Busch claimed to be an unintentional incident he caused while taking his helmet off.

Since that incident, as well as the ensuing shouting match between Busch and members of Newman's pit crew, fans, drivers and media alike have wasted no time taking shots at NASCAR's new favorite punching bag.

After all, it's not like any other driver in the sport has anger issues, or even any history of anger issues. Right?

Not so fast.

In this day and age of vanilla drivers, NASCAR fans have looked up and down the pit lane for somebody, anybody, who may just give the sport a little flavor. Among these favorites are drivers like Harvick and Stewart.

Both of whom have dealt with anger issues in the past, and even do somewhat to this day.

Perhaps you will remember that in the early 2000s, Stewart, who's always had a very large, dedicated fan base, was the center of media attention after he punched a photographer following a race at Loudon, and was always making headlines with soundbites of him dissing reporters.

Tony Stewart has had his share of anger issues in recent years
Tony Stewart has had his share of anger issues in recent yearsTodd Warshaw/Getty Images

You may remember him spinning then-rookie Kasey Kahne for the lead at Chicagoland in 2004, or running Matt Kenseth clear off the track at Daytona in 2006.

You may even remember hearing about him beating up an Australian short-track owner in the offseason prior to the 2011 Sprint Cup season.

As for Harvick, how can we forget the time he ambushed Greg Biffle after a Busch Series race at Bristol in 2002, or the time he stomped on Ricky Rudd's car after a race at Richmond in 2003?

Perhaps you can recall him confronting Kahne following the race at Phoenix in 2004, or spinning Joey Logano out of a sure Top 5 at Pocono in 2010.

Maybe you even remember him turning Trevor Bayne head-on into the wall in the Nationwide Series race at Richmond last September.

When you look at life recently for these fan favorites, you'll notice not a lot has changed. Sure, they've toned it down just a bit, but that same care-free attitude the fans so love is still there.

Just last week, Stewart made a few sarcastic comments to reporters following the race at Talladega, essentially calling out the fans for wanting to see pack racing instead of two-car tandems.

As for Harvick, he still goes after drivers like he did a few years ago. Just ask Kyle Busch after Darlington last May.

Kevin Harvick storms through the garage area after a fight with Kyle Busch
Kevin Harvick storms through the garage area after a fight with Kyle BuschTom Pennington/Getty Images

There's nothing wrong with fans taking such a liking to the Harvicks and Stewarts of the sport. In this day and age of cookie-cutter tracks and cookie-cutter drivers, a little something different is nice to see.

But if Harvick is revered for his aggressive driving, and Stewart is admired for his less-than-gentle approach toward media members, why is it that a guy like Kurt Busch is not treated with the same adoration from all parties involved in the sport?

After all, when you compare the drivers, there are few differences to be found. 

Sure, at the present time Busch may be the most fiery and unpredictable driver in the garage area. And perhaps that's something fans find a little intimidating.

But if it's burning competitiveness and an unmatched drive to perform that draws fans to guys like Harvick and Stewart, perhaps it's time for some to take a closer look at Busch.

For all three drivers, those traits come with a side of anger. And while Busch's may be hot off the grill, Harvick's and Stewart's are still simmering.

It is for that reason these three drivers have more in common than you may think.

Even if that reality may be hard to swallow.