Mooresville, N.C. (May 16, 2021) – Confrontation may not be the first thing associated with NASCAR drivers, but two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch says it’s all part of the price of winning on the latest episode of I AM NASCAR which debuts on the I AM ATHLETE (IAA) podcast Monday (watch HERE).
“You have to understand what it takes to beat the competition,” said Busch. “My dad always told me that you’re competing against the rest of the drivers, they aren’t your friends. Eventually something is going to happen on the track, and they won’t be your friends any longer, so there’s no point befriending them.”
This episode marks the IAA crew’s third sit-down with a NASCAR driver, after previous episodes saw them dive deep with NASCAR’s lone black driver Bubba Wallace, and most recently the legendary Dale Earnhardt Jr. I AM NASCAR will continue to run weekly during this month, with the exploratory expansion into this new arena set to feature monthly episodes throughout the NASCAR season, all available on the IAA YouTube Channel.
Busch did not hold back on his own racing history and image as a NASCAR “villain” during the special IAA episode, as he explained his numerous feuds and more to former NFL star and IAA founder Brandon Marshall, along with IAA co-hosts and former NFL stars Chad Ochocinco, Channing Crowder and “Unc” Fred Taylor.
“Kyle has embraced that it’s okay to be the villain,” said IAA co-host Ochocinco, who was no stranger to embracing that role during his storied NFL career. “It’s a great role. That’s why I love you and your energy and your f-you mentality when it comes to racing.”
Throughout his renowned career, Busch has butted heads with various drivers, including last week’s I AM NASCAR guest, Earnhardt Jr. Busch went into his side of their altercation on the track years ago, during this conversation with the IAA crew.
“He felt like you were salty,” said Marshall referring to Earnhardt Jr., who shared with them his perspective of the 2008 incident during his I AM NASCAR appearance, diving into the confrontation at Richmond Raceway that officially sparked their long-running feud that divided NASCAR fans for years.
“Oh I was salty,” replied Busch. “But I didn’t wreck him on purpose. When you’re racing against guys you don’t like, you don’t give them an extra inch. You’re trying to pass them the whole time. If you slip and you hit them, who cares? I had no care in that moment. If I was racing someone I liked, I probably wouldn’t have ran so hard. From like 2008 through 2011, we hated each other. I avoided eye contact and all of that stuff. We eventually became cordial with each other. There wasn’t really a turning point, it just kind of evolved into that.”
When Crowder asked what “qualifies for an ass-whopping?” on the track, Busch then goes into his confrontation with Joey Logano and how it went from beef on the track, to an incident after the race where Busch threw a punch at Logano.
“I didn’t tell anyone what I was going to do,” said Busch. “Never said anything on the radio. Kept it all to myself. I marched my happy ass down to pit road. Turned right into where he was, pulled it back and let it rip. I got the one hit in, because of course the rest of the fight was just all these dudes coming in and separating everyone.”
Ochocinco looked to dig deeper on Busch’s many feuds, prompting Busch to continue to expound on his issues with Logano.
“You’re an (expletive) like I am, but a nice (expletive),” said Ochocinco. “You said there are others who you do have similar relationships with now like you once had with Dale?”
“Joey Logano is still number one,” said Busch. “The problem with Joey, is that he’s two-faced. People know I’m an (expletive) on the race track. Logano will come in here and he’s laughing and happy-go-lucky. But you put him on the race track, then he flips the (expletive) switch on. If you’re going to be a nice guy, be a nice guy on the track as well.”
This topic leads Marshall to make a comparison between the perception of Busch, and Marshall’s former teammate on the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears, Jay Cutler.
“The perception people have of you, reminds me of Jay Cutler,” said Marshall. “But the people in both of your circles, absolutely love you. Is perception reality? What are we missing?”
“I’ve seen the persona fans and media put on Jay and he definitely gets a bad rap,” said Busch. “Because you can see the way the players react to him. He’s different than the way he’s perceived on the outside. When I came into NASCAR in 2003, my brother (Kurt Busch) had made a name for himself, so people saw us as punk kids from Las Vegas. We didn’t come in from the standard southern upbringing. I was booed at my first race. I was guilty by association. So from there, I was just like, I’m going to do me. It was a rough start and it gave people a bad taste in their mouths.”
Acknowledging that it was time to “get messy,” Marshall asks Busch about his recent racing record, which has seen him only record two wins over his last 67 races. Busch displayed his belief that some rules limiting how many different series races he can drive in, have affected his performance.
“They made a rule in 2015 or 2016 where you’re only allowed to run five truck races and five Xfinity races if you’re a Cup driver for three years,” said Busch. “It’s the Kyle Busch rule. Because I was out there winning everything in the lower and upper divisions.”
This idea prompts Ochocinco to compare the Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick debate to NASCAR, asking if more credit should be heaped on the drivers or their crew chiefs.
“Drivers are quarterbacks and crew chiefs are head coaches,” said Busch. “There are four tiers of drivers. A,B, C and D. There’s maybe four or five in the A tier, and six or seven in each of the rest. It’s similar with crew chiefs. There are five crew chiefs who are A-level. If you can work with them, you take it every time. If you have an A crew chief and B driver, you’re pretty good, and same if you flip it. If you have an A and an A, sky’s the limit.”
“You’re an A now,” responded Crowder. “Will you know when you’re a B or a C?”
“I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything,” said Busch. “I feel like my days are more challenging though. Starting in 12th and working up to 10th does take a lot. But it just tells me that the car has to be better off the truck. Any driver can only carry it so far.”
Before the episode concludes, Marshall makes sure to remind Busch and the crew that we are still in Mental Health Awareness Month and asks Busch to discuss his and his wife’s journey with IVF (in vitro fertilization) and give advice to those out there who are going through similar circumstances.
“If it happens, it happens, and if it don’t, it don’t,” said Busch. “It’s not in our hands. As much as science can figure so many things out, there’s ultimately a higher power that controls what’s going to happen.”