By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
Kyle Busch has wasted no time in ruffling some feathers before the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season has even begun and the young drivers he targeted with his comments are having none of it.
During the annual pre-season Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour, Busch was asked how he felt about the sanctioning body’s marketing push toward the up and coming drivers in the sport and in true fashion, his comments set off a firestorm.
“It is bothersome,” Busch said. “We’ve paid our dues, and our sponsors have and everything else, and all you’re doing is advertising all these younger guys for fans to figure out and pick up on and choose as their favorite driver. I think it’s stupid. But I don’t know, I’m not the marketing genius that’s behind this deal. You know, I just do what I can do, and my part of it is what my part is.
“I guess one thing that can be said is probably the younger guys are bullied into doing more things than the older guys are because we say no a lot more because we’ve been there, done that and have families, things like that, and want to spend as much time as we can at home. You know, maybe that’s some of it. But you know, it’s ‑‑ some of these marketing campaigns and things like that, pushing these younger drivers, is I wouldn’t say all that fair.”
One of the first drivers to come out against Busch’s comments was Ryan Blaney, who enters his third year as a full-time Cup Series driver with a move over to Team Penske in 2018. Blaney has become a fan favorite in his short tenure in NASCAR’s top division for his presence on social media, having his own podcast, and making appearances at numerous venues both inside and outside of the sport.
“I have been really fortunate to get a lot of great chances from NASCAR to go do things outside of motorsports, said Blaney. “I have always been very open to do a lot of things that they want and it is not always stuff like that. You go do some markets where maybe you don’t think it will be a good market but you do it anyway because it helps the sport and helps yourself. It is a win-win for everybody.
“I feel like if some drivers were more willing to do these things they would get asked more to do it. The reason I get asked to do it a lot is because I say yes a lot because I think it is good for the sport and myself. I can tell you personally that he (Busch) doesn’t like doing a lot of stuff so that is why they don’t ask him to do a lot of stuff. That kind of made me upset how he bashed that part of it. To each his own. If he doesn’t want to do anything, so be it.
“I just think it is really important to have not only young drivers but all NASCAR drivers trying to be pushing to get to new demographics of the world to get interested in our sport. Whether it is young fans or new fans that don’t pay attention to it who aren’t young. That is everybody, not just young drivers that will make people appeal to the sport. I think everybody should be more open to helping the sport out because that is how it is going to survive. I am trying to do the best I can at it and a lot of other drivers are helping too, just trying to get more and more every day.”
Darrell Wallace, Jr., who enters the 2018 season as a rookie in the Cup Series with Richard Petty Motorsports, sided with Blaney on the issue and had some comments of his own regarding the comments from his former boss. Wallace drove for Kyle Busch at Kyle Busch Motorsports from 2013 to 2014 and like Blaney, has been a fan favorite by showcasing his personality on social media and other avenues.
“That was so dumb,” said Wallace. “So stupid. I know Kyle, and I’ve raced with him, and I know how he is. I don’t care ‑‑ it’s just like ‑‑ I don’t know how old he is, 30 something, right? 32? Damn, he’s that old? Getting up there, bud. He was in the same kind of spot we were. I mean, they had, what, the Gillette Young Guns back then. He’s still got the baby face now. Not sure what he’s trying to say, but he had kind of some of the same treatment we’re going through, and I will say when certain drivers ‑‑ you guys can ‑‑ if I ever get to this level, pinch me and try to bring me back home, but when they get to this certain level, they stop doing stuff.
“We get requests all the time, some stuff we turn down, some stuff it’s like, okay, how does this help me, does it help, good, let’s do it. It’s kind of pulling teeth when you get well‑established in the Cup Series, and a lot of us are like that. It’s one of those things where I look at how is it going to promote my brand, promote the sport, promote the youth movement, and if I’m promoting the sport, that means I’m promoting everybody in this room, right? We’re all part of the sport together. So it’s actually like you’re welcome for doing the dirty work. And I wouldn’t really call it dirty work because some of it’s fun. We get to go to LA and hang out and be on Nickelodeon and doing all this stuff, and we like doing that. I don’t have the M&M’s sponsor to carry me full‑time. I have 13 races, so I have to put myself out there. I have to sell myself. And if NASCAR is going to do that and I don’t have to pay for it, hell yeah, sign me up. There’s my take.”