Kyle Busch is taking some heat from the NASCAR community over comments he made on Tuesday that the league isn’t promoting veterans due to an overemphasis on the next generation of young guns that have arrived in recent seasons.
The push has become necessary because the sport has rapidly lost some of its most recognizable stars with Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all stepping away since the 2015 season.
The retirements have ushered in a wave of new talent with Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace, Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and William Byron all inheriting key rides and the accompanying marketing push from NASCAR itself. Busch has taken the strategy as a slight against himself and other veteran mainstays.
“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.”
It wasn’t all that long ago that Kyle Busch was “that young driver.” He entered the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series full time in 2005 when he was 20. Fast-forward to today and after …
This hasn’t proven to be a popular opinion.
Kevin Harvick said his comments were ‘like a child whining for some attention’ and added that Elliott winning a race ‘would be good for everybody.’
Blaney specifically took exception to what Busch had to say, expressing his belief that many of the younger drivers are more willing to work with NASCAR and the media to get their personalities under the spotlight.
“I feel like if some drivers were more willing to do these things, they’d get asked more to do it,” Blaney said. “The reason why I get asked more to do it a lot is because I say, ‘Yes,’ a lot. It’s good for the sport and myself. I can tell you personally, he (Busch) doesn’t like doing a lot of stuff. And that’s why they don’t ask him to do a lot of stuff. So that kind of made me a little upset how he bashed that part of it. But to each his own. If he doesn’t want to do anything, so be it.”
Wallace simply called Busch ‘stupid.’
“I love Kyle to death, but, damn dude, c’mon,” Wallace said. “I don’t know how old he is. What is he? 32? Damn, he’s that old? Getting up there, bud. He was in the same spot we were. They had the ‘Gillette Young Guns’ back then. He’s still got the baby face now. So, I’m not really sure what he’s trying to say.
“He had some of the same treatment we went through. I will say when certain drivers — and if I ever get to this level you can pinch me and bring me back down — but when they get to a certain level, they stop doing stuff.
“We get requests all the time. Some stuff we turn down, some stuff it’s like, ‘How does this help me?’ OK, good.’ It’s kind of like pulling teeth when you get well-established in the Cup series. A lot of us are like that. It’s one of those thing where I look at it as ‘How does it promote my brand?’ or promote the sport, or promote the youth movement?”
Brad Keselowski was about 10 minutes late for his scheduled media session on Wednesday afternoon at the NASCAR Media Tour but it was naturally worth the wait.Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick had generated ..
Even the NASCAR marketing department felt obligated to respond, with Executive Vice President and Chief Global Sales and Marketing Officer Steve Phelps calling into Sirius XM Radio on Wednesday night to detail the company’s strategy.
He said NASCAR promotes a mix of drivers and that promotion is typically based on results more-so than age. He admitted that the Sanctioning Body could have done a better job of promoting younger talent, such as Busch, in the early 2000s and that they’ve learned from that lesson over the past decade.
Specifically, a relative unknown like Trevor Bayne winning the 2011 Daytona 500 galvanized NASCAR’s marketing branch into strengthening initiatives like NASCAR NEXT and the Drive 4 Diversity.
“It was a miss on our part,” Phelps said in a conference call with reporters. “Until four or five years ago, most of our marketing was about the racing itself. … It wasn’t about the stars of our sport. It’s fair when he came into the sport and started winning right off the bat, I think it’s a fair statement that we did not give that kind of support.”
But Phelps was adamant that veterans are not being left behind, citing Busch as a veteran driver that NASCAR plans to spotlight heavily during the 2018 campaign.
“Kyle does a lot for our sport,” Phelps said. “I think we expose Kyle in a good, meaningful way and Toyota does as well and [his sponsor] M&Ms does working with [his Joe] Gibbs guys, and that’s important for us. It’s not about veterans complaining they’re not getting their fair share.”