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Keeping Pace

A Piece of the Rock and Roll

You really have to hand it to Kyle Busch. The most exciting young racer to come along in many years, he has demonstrated his determination to the world by tackling pretty much every racing series you can think of, and beating all of them at their own game.


Guest Column By Cathy Elliott

A piece of the rock and roll

You really have to hand it to Kyle Busch. The most exciting young racer to come along in many years, he has demonstrated his determination to the world by tackling pretty much every racing series you can think of, and beating all of them at their own game.

And on June 6 at Nashville Superspeedway, young Master Busch showed the world something else. When he hoisted the winner’s trophy — a Sam Bass-designed Gibson Les Paul, pretty much the holy grail of electric guitars — over his head and brought it crashing down onto the pavement, just as he said he would, he demonstrated his integrity.

Yes, Busch is a guy who definitely knows how to keep a promise. With style.

It was a brilliantly unexpected move, reminiscent of the glory days of rock and roll. Nearly five decades have passed since Who guitarist Pete Townshend first began systematically annihilating his guitars on stage.

“To me, it wasn’t violence or random destruction,” Townshend said in the Who biography ‘Before I Get Old.’ “It was art.”

Since then, the practice has become sort of a rock and roll rite of passage. You have to admit it must be a great way to alleviate all that pent up adrenaline that comes hand in glove with a live performance. Sort of like a turbo Tae Bo class.

Something like a trillion people shrieked with delight when Adam Lambert performed with KISS on this year’s American Idol season finale. The performance culminated with — and you probably already know this because I’m betting you watched it, too — a guitar was smashed on stage.

And the crowd went wild.

When Busch smashed his guitar on the NASCAR stage, the crowd also went wild. But most of the shrieks didn’t sound all that delighted. The move has been called everything from disrespectful to shocking, and then some.

Now let’s all take a deep breath … and stop pointing our accusatory fingers at Kyle Busch. On the most basic level, it doesn’t matter one little bit what we think of his trophy treatment. He won the race, and was given the trophy, so it was his property to do with as he wished.

What he wished to do was share it.

There’s a back story here, you see. Kyle Busch had never before won a race at Nashville in NASCAR’s three national series. In stock car racing terms, that’s the equivalent of waving a five-pound pork chop in front of a very hungry dog. Busch promised his team that if they did in fact win the race, he would “disassemble” the trophy and share it with all of them. Sort of like their own piece of the rock and roll.

He followed through. It was a gutsy move and a pretty darned spectacular one.

Should Busch have shared his back story on the front end, so NASCAR Nation would have been prepared for what seemed to be a random act of victory? Maybe, although increasingly it seems to me that even in his triumphs, and they are many, he can never really win where fans are concerned.

Then, instead of offering up the apology everyone seemed to be demanding — for doing what he wished with his own rightfully-won property — Busch expressed disappointment with his effort.

“Well, rock stars break guitars all the time but I’ve never seen a NASCAR driver do it. I just wanted to break it apart and spread it around with the crew,” he said. “It didn’t break according to plan so I guess we’ll take it the shop and cut it up so all of the guys can have nice, smooth pieces … I’ll order another one for myself and one for Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief).”

And that’s exactly what he did.

The artist, who watched as Busch tried to reduce many hours’ worth of work into musical shrapnel, had this to say, according to The Sporting News:

“When I took a picture with Kyle as I traditionally do, the first thing he said to me was that there was no disrespect to me or the trophy or the speedway or any of the sponsors. He just said that he told his guys that he was going to give each one of them a piece of the trophy whenever he won the guitar.

“That was his way, in the spirit of rock and roll to break the guitar like a KISS concert and share it with all the guys on the team. That made me feel a lot better. As a person that loves rock and roll the way I do and appreciates a good show, Kyle Busch put on a great show in victory lane and shocked the world.”

I’m just crazy about Kyle Busch. I love to watch the guy and to listen to him. He keeps things interesting. When you always expect the unexpected, you are never disappointed.

As I watched that guitar heading southward, I just shook my head, laughed a little bit and offered a small prayer of thankfulness for youthful exuberance. We could use more of that these days.

Kyle Busch’s definition of a Victory Lane celebration is his own to create. I didn’t find this one to be particularly shocking or horrific or anarchistic or any of those other pejoratives that are being tossed around so freely all of a sudden.

In every sense of the word, it was smashing.


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Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.

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