FORT WORTH, Tex. – Like almost all great drivers who make an indelible mark in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing, Kyle Busch evokes a broad range of emotions from the fan base.
Busch has heard his shares of boos over the years, but last year, when he missed the first 11 races with a broken right leg and left foot suffered in a NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona, fans seemed much more sympathetic to the Joe Gibbs Racing driver when he returned to action in May.
Then Busch started winning again, ultimately claiming the series title with a dramatic victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Last year, when I came back, I was booed a little bit, but there was certainly some cheers around being able to get back in the race car, get back to the race track – things like that,” Busch said. “But then I started winning again and it kind of went away.
“It seemed like not only did I go back to my winning ways, but it seemed like the fans kind of went back to their old ways of how they treated me.”
Nevertheless, Busch feels the winning the title may represent a turning point in the way he’s perceived.
“I feel like through the championship and things like that, obviously I’ve grown a little bit, but obviously, too, I think my reputation’s kind of grown a little bit as well, and I think it’s just a never-ending evolution of people in the sport.
“You look at every single driver that’s gone through the sport over the years, and they’ve all kind of gone through that – every popular one, maybe I should say – Rusty (Wallace), DW (Darrell Waltrip), Dale Jarrett I think even Bobby Labonte, Jeff Gordon especially, and (Dale) Earnhardt.”
Ultimately, the drivers on Busch’s list won over many of their detractors.
“You’ve seen those transitions happen and I feel like this is may be mine,” Busch said. “I’ve now been here – this is 12 seasons I think, so it’s been a while. I’m only 30.
“I did start probably a lot younger than many of the other ones did and made a lot a more mistakes in my younger age than many of them did, but I think it will be… hopefully will be pretty memorable by the time it’s all said and done.”
In a practice session whose conditions will resemble most closely those of Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500, third-place starter Martin Truex Jr. posted far and away the fastest single lap of the session at 192.390 mph. Polesitter Carl Edwards was second on the speed chart at 190.248 mph…
Austin Dillon, however, posted the fastest 10-lap average of Happy Hour at 184.633 mph, a stark indication of just how quickly tires fall off during a sustained run. Dillon start 10th in the No. 3 Chevrolet on Saturday night.