Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Racing's Bad Boys

by Tammy

I wish I'd watched some NASCAR growing up, because I'd like a little more historical context for the behavior of current-day drivers. I'm talking about Kyle Busch.

For those of you who don't know, Kyle Busch is NASCAR's current bad-boy/brat, though he'd cleaned up his behavior and image this year--at least until this weekend in Texas. That's when he was so angry at a competitor in the truck race, Ron Hornaday, Jr., for real or imagined bumping (over the past four weeks, to hear Busch tell it), that Busch turned Hornaday into the wall. Hard. Under caution. Ending Hornaday's chance for a championship this year.

NASCAR, for all of its vagueness about where the line between acceptable and unacceptable was in their stated policy of "boys, have at it" (yes, they made the pornography statement of "we'll know it when we see it"), acted decisively, parking Busch in the middle of the truck race and for the other two races this weekend. Ending his own hopes of a Sprint Cup championship.

You all know I'm no Kyle Busch fan. But here's my question for those who have followed the sport for longer than I have. How do his bad-boy antics compare to bad-boys of decades past?

I came to the sport after the death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., so I can only interpret the myth, legend, and stories left behind. But from everything I hear about him, he wasn't a nice-guy on track. Quite the opposite. So how is it he was so beloved and Kyle Busch is not? Was Dale Seniorthe man was called The Intimidator, for Pete's sakea more fair, less erratic driver? I've heard tell he could be as ruthless as anyone on the track. How much did Senior anger half the NASCAR Nation on any given weekend? Would he be as universally beloved if he were still alive?

And who were the other bad boys in NASCAR's history? Are there any who got drummed out of the sport for bad behavior? Is there anyone Kyle Busch can learn from?


  1. I grew up with NASCAR and attended several races every year in the 70s and into the early 80s. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I don't think there were similar situations then. At least not like Kyle is displaying. But there was no internet and no TV coverage. Who knows what went on in the paddock.

    As for Dale Senior, I always thought he was an arrogant ass. Obviously a great driver, but I perceived him to be a bully in a race car. However, I don't think he was trying to put other cars in the fence, just use the chrome horn to nudge them out of the way. He wasn't concerned with racing clean, just racing to win.

  2. OK, I can certainly see the difference between racing not-quite-clean and active retaliation. And thanks for being honest about Dale Senior: I've always thought he must have been a bit of a bully, but it's something that can hardly be said now, at least not by someone who never watched him race. Thanks for the comments, Rick!