By Ryan Isley
There is a saying I like to use quite often on social media – “haters gonna hate.” When it comes to NASCAR, the haters don’t come out for anyone stronger than they do for Kyle Busch. Those haters may not have a good weekend as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Richmond Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400 on Saturday night.
Coming off wins in back-to-back races, plenty of NASCAR fans have already started to show their impatience and displeasure when it comes to watching Busch take the checkered flag. They might have to get used to it, though, because Busch is heading to another track where he has been historically strong.
At Richmond, Busch has four wins and 15 top-5s in 25 career MENCS races to go with six wins and 16 top-5s in 22 career Xfinity Series races. That’s 10 wins and 31 top-5s in 47 races. The four MENCS wins and 15 top-5s at Richmond are the most among active drivers.
A win by Busch would mark the second time this season in nine races that a driver has won three MENCS races in a row, matching Kevin Harvick. The early part of the season turned into the Kevin Harvick Invitational, as he won at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix in the second through fourth races of the season.
While Harvick was winning races and getting the headlines, Busch was busy starting a streak of his own. Beginning with the race at Las Vegas, Busch has not finished worse than 3rd in the last six races. He finished as the runner-up to Harvick in Las Vegas and Phoenix and then finished 3rd at Fontana before another runner-up finish at Martinsville.
The 32-year-old driver started to show some frustration over the lack of winning despite the top-3 finishes and points lead, so he went out and did something about it with wins in the next two races.
Those two wins once again stirred up the hatred on social media, with many people refusing to even acknowledge how great of a race Busch ran, especially at Bristol. In the final laps of that race, Busch ran down Kyle Larson and was able to move the younger driver out of the way with a good old-fashioned Bristol move to drive off with the win.
The story heading into Richmond could very well be that if Busch wins, it would be the first time since 2015 that the MENCS has had two different drivers win three races in a row. In fact, it has only happened twice since in the last 25 years that more than one driver has won three races in a row in a season. Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace did it in 1993 and then Busch and Joey Logano did it in 2015. Logano was the last driver to win three in a row until Harvick earlier this year.
Of course, the biggest story when Busch returns to Richmond isn’t about a race he won. It’s about a race where he wrecked Dale Earnhardt, Jr and started almost a decade-long feud between the two drivers. After not talking about the incident since it happened, the two drivers and the main people involved on that day spoke with Jeff Gluck for an article he did on his website and then Busch sat down with Earnhardt, Jr on his podcast to talk about the incident and the aftermath.
After people had a chance to read and hear about the incident from both drivers and were able to get a little bit of a look into Busch’s personality that many don’t see (or just refuse to see), a number of fans softened their stance on the driver they most loved to hate.
It will be interesting to see what the reaction will be should Busch once again drive to victory lane this week. Some might not be as mad that Busch won, but there will of course be a number of people who will still hate seeing the No. 18 holding the checkered flag and celebrating.
And you know what I have to say to those who are unhappy – haters gonna hate.