Kyle Busch did something he has never done Saturday night at Richmond Raceway. Moments after he crossed the finish line to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series Toyota Owners 400, he stopped his car near the flag stand and got out to take his customary bow to the fans.
In years past that gesture was met with a chorus of boos. After all Busch fancied himself a sort of villain and the bow was meant more as a thumb up the nose than anything else.
Recently however, the boos have lessened, and the cheers have risen. Saturday night was no exception. He deserved those cheers; after all he had just won the race, his third consecutive Cup win, after starting deeper in the field, 32nd, then anyone ever had to comeback and win.
So Saturday night, Busch took his customary bow, then did something totally unexpected. He went up into the stands and shook hands, exchanged high fives and celebrated with the fans. It was something that took a bit of a leap of faith on Busch’s part. After all, the talk during the week leading up to the win was of the 10th anniversary of the Richmond race that saw Busch dump NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. out of the way while Earnhardt was leading. After that 2008 race there was talk that Busch would need security to leave the property that night.
That 10th anniversary according to Busch was the reason he went into the stands Saturday night.
“It was the 10‑year anniversary of you know what,” Busch said. “I was wondering if I’d come out alive.”
“I think it certainly was different tonight,” he added. “I saw a lot of yellow there at the front fence line. I saw a little bit of black, which was the championship jacket from our season back in ’15.”
Busch’s boss, team owner Joe Gibbs didn’t know his driver had gone into the stands.
“Oh, my gosh,” Gibbs said as he sat beside his driver at the post race press conference. “You should not do that. That’s a risk (laughter).”
“Anyway, I think that’s great, though,” Gibbs added. “Went up there and he came back. That’s what’s even better. They didn’t keep him (laughter).”
Busch smiled and reassured his team owner.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I was definitely eyeing it out, like who’s there, who’s there, who’s there. Saw a lot of 18 stuff. So I just decided to go up there, get some guys and some kids some high fives, what’s up’s. “
“Fortunately I got back out of there,” he said adding tongue in cheek, “They held onto me for a second, then my brute strength ripped me out of their arms and brought me back to civilization on the racetrack.”
Even the driver Busch turned on that fateful night in 2008 seemed to approve of Saturday nights leap in the stands.
“The world loves to build things up and/or tear them down,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted. “Wouldn’t be too terribly surprised if he becomes a fan fav before he hangs it up.”
The world loves to build things up and/or tear them down. Wouldn’t be too terribly surprised if he becomes a fan fav before he hangs it up.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) April 22, 2018