When it comes to drivers with the most raw talent behind the wheel, there is no arguing that Kyle Busch should be at or near the top of any list.
Most of the time in sports, however, competitors aren't remembered for how talented they were or how great they performed throughout the season. They are remembered for how many championships they captured and how they performed in clutch situations.
Busch has shown that he can win in virtually anything with wheels on it. That much is undeniable.
But in watching Saturday night's 24 Hours of Richmond—the joking nature of that is only halfhearted; it really did feel like that long—we witnessed a moment that finally confirmed the truth about Kyle Busch.
He will never win a Sprint Cup Series championship.
Anyone who watched Saturday night's race knows how it went: Busch held a 12-point advantage over Jeff Gordon for the final wild-card spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and seemingly needed to finish in the same area code as Gordon to make the season-ending playoff.
Busch was running 11th when the race was red flagged for rain at lap 155. Gordon, on the other hand, started on the front row before falling off the lead lap and fading to 26th at the time of the stoppage.
Busch's night started downhill when crew chief Dave Rogers decided to leave Busch on the racetrack during another caution for rain at lap 277, betting that the precipitation would bring about the end of the race.
Gordon pitted under that lap-277 caution, and proceeded to drive through the field to a second-place finish. Busch was forced to pit once the race went back green, lost two laps and was only able to get back up to 16th, which left him three points short of the final wild-card spot and caused him to miss the Chase for the second time in four years.
Clearly, that split-second call by Rogers was the wrong one, and it harmed Busch's chances to finish well. But it was what his driver said afterwards that showed the world something about Kyle Busch.
During the ensuing green flag run, Rogers keyed the radio and asked Busch what he wanted the crew to do to his car on the final pit stop.
"What do you want, bud?" Rogers asked.
"I don't f****** care."
In that moment, every NASCAR fan viewing should have come to the realization that Busch will never be a Sprint Cup champion.
At the time, Gordon was on the move, but Busch was still very much in contention for the final wild-card position in the Chase. Take away the lug nut problem on the pit stop, and there's a real chance that Busch still could have finished close enough to the top 10 to make the Chase.
At that point, there was no reason for Busch to be so despondent and cynical about the final dash to the finish. There was still one final opportunity to fix (or, at least, help) whatever handling problems were plaguing his M&M's Toyota.
But Busch didn't care. He said as much. He was so frustrated with the situation and with his race car that he did the equivalent of throwing his hands in the air and saying, "The hell with it," at a critical point in the race when his team still had a chance to race for a championship.
To put it mildly, that's not what you expect out of a guy who was apparently so desperate to make the Chase and contend for the title.
For the record, I am aware that Busch's Chase hopes were hindered in extremely large part by the dropped lug nut on his final pit stop, which had yet to occur at the time he made that comment.
One could view that as rendering my argument moot, but the fact remains that Busch had no way of knowing he was going to be trapped two laps down by that pit miscue.
For all he knew, he was going to have a routine pit stop and come out just one lap down, which still could have put him in position to finish close enough to the top 10 to make the Chase. Yet he chose to take said approach to discussing adjustments for that final stop.
Therefore, the lug nut mistake notwithstanding, the context of his comment remains valid.
Look, Busch is a remarkable talent. But his immaturity is about as renowned now as Jeff Gordon's prepubescent voice or Juan Montoya's penchant for doorslamming people.
He has shown it countless times over the years, culminating last year when he purposely wrecked Ron Hornaday in a Truck race at Texas, earning a Cup Series suspension that ended his championship hopes.
Busch isn't a 20-year-old kid anymore. The excuses are gone. He's 27 now. He's married. He has reached the age where one would expect him to grow into the team leader that a potential champion is supposed to be.
Could you imagine Gordon or Jimmie Johnson saying that to their crew chief in a similar situation? I think not.
Telling your crew chief that you simply don't care anymore when you are still in decent position to make the Chase is not being a team leader or a championship-caliber competitor. That appears to be a trait that Busch will never grow into.
And that's why he will never have what it takes to be a Sprint Cup champion.
What's your opinion? Do you agree? Disagree? Do you think Kyle Busch has the toughness it takes to be a Cup champion? Or do you think his inability to deal with adversity will keep him from ever hoisting the crown? Answer the poll question above and tell us why or why not below!
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