Welcome back, Kyle Busch…and I still don’t like you!

Published 10:38 am Monday, September 11, 2017

I’m going to miss a little more than not seeing Dale Earnhardt Jr in a fulltime NASCAR Cup ride next season. I’m also going to miss what I thought five years ago would be stock car racing’s next big rivalry.

In a sport that had Petty vs Pearson, Allison vs Yarborough, Earnhardt vs Waltrip vs Wallace vs Gordon vs anybody, to not have the old rivalries around anymore is disheartening. Sure, racing is slipping a bit (from sponsorships to TV ratings), but when that’s happened before there was nothing like a good ol’ somebody versus somebody (or even something vs something – remember, Ford vs Chevy! Dodge vs Pontiac!) to bring things all back in line.

I’m happy on many levels for Rick Hendrick’s success with Jimmie Johnson, but there’s just something about Johnson vs Keslowski that don’t quite cut it for me.

Both are hard, clean racers who’ve earned it on and off the track, but there’s nothing about these vehicular combatants that make me run to grab the remote every Sunday.

But Junior versus Busch?…now that sounded like it was something that was going to be different. But it never was.

Neither have had a great 2017 season, though Kyle seems to have turned a corner.

Junior finds himself in a scramble to make the Monster Energy playoffs (sitting 22nd, and six spots out of the final spot: 16th), while Kyle – who couldn’t hit a cow in the buttocks through the first two-thirds of the season with the Joe Gibbs Racing team – now has finished no lower than 10th in his last five starts, and that includes two wins and a second-place finish last Sunday night at Darlington!

While Junior was the ‘anointed one’, Busch just drove his wheels off on his way to respectability, with 40 career Cup wins (2nd only to Johnson) and a championship in 2015. And when he started having success in the Truck and Xfinity series, he became the driver they loved to hate – myself included – for stealing non-Cup drivers’ glory.

Based on stats, maybe there never was a rivalry with these two, certainly not on the scale of the aforementioned; but earning respect from the fans is something that one day far down the road Busch will receive. Just as Earnhardt Sr, Gordon, and Waltrip – all once regarded as evildoers – evolved into fan favorites.

Guess I’ll have to go back to WWE wrestling to find some new villains.

Racing Note: For the second time, it seems Rick Ware Racing can’t seem to get that East Carolina Pirates-decaled car on a track for a Cup race.

Eight weeks after the race team was forced to punt on the second race of a planned three-race deal, it now looks like they will now have to forgo plans to have the Pirates on its #51 Chevrolet for tonight’s (Saturday’s) race at Richmond.

The problem is drumming up the supplemental sponsorship to cover the costs of decaling the car and taking it to Richmond. Team reps say they needed a minimum of $7,000 by Wednesday to have made it feasible to run the ECU scheme.

ECU didn’t pay for its decals to be on the car. It was all part of an initiative to introduce colleges and universities to the world of NASCAR marketing, with an eye toward attracting other local and regional sponsors who wanted to be associated with the ECU machine.

There may still be a chance the Purple-and-Gold will run at Dover, again, Charlotte, or Martinsville, in October.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.