Kyle Busch and the Bashed Guitar: To the Victor Belong the Spoils

M Brian LadnerCorrespondent IJune 8, 2009

Once again I'm going to take an unpopular stance and say Kyle Busch's trashing of his trophy guitar in victory lane in Nashville not only finally showed some much-needed personality in victory lane, but it also put on a media "happening" that few if any will ever forget.

His trashing of that guitar is a visual that will live on in the collective consciousness of those who saw it forever, much like anyone who saw Jimi Hendrix light his guitar on fire or The Sex Pistols trash whatever they could at the end of a show.

I know for me and for many others, Busch's actions were not necessarily the best thought through, but they beat the heck out of what Larry McReynolds described simply as a driver "searching out his hat, his sunglasses, and his beverage, then thanking his team back at the shop."

Before you jump so far down my throat that you could check my liver to see if I've been drinking again, know that I admit that not only would I not have done it, but also that I believe it wasn't necessarily the brightest, best thought out thing to do.

Heck, I still have a undrilled Seattle Mariners bowling ball stored at my sister's house that I simply can't stand the thought of parting with. And I never even played for the Mariners nor did I win the bowling ball as a trophy. 

That being said, I'm not Kyle Busch.

That moment in victory lane was real, it was visceral, and it was memorable—far more so than any other moment ever in that victory lane or probably most any other.

The trophy is but a material reminder of that win, and he's already ordered two more (one for him and one for his crew chief) to keep as material reminders.

And today that guitar is being buzz-sawed and the pieces individually signed by Busch and given to his team members—to keep his promise to them to give them a material reminder of their own—a piece of that guitar.

In most of the pieces I have read about the "incident," many people have quoted Sam Bass "before-and-after" the night of the "happening."
The quotes from that night lean toward Bass being shocked at first, but later understanding and "applauding rock-and-roll theatrics" of what Busch did.
Other stories quote Bass later seemingly back-tracking on those initial feelings, although it is not too much of a stretch to interpret many of Bass' statements as reiterations of what he said Saturday night.
But that misses the point. The bottom line here is, once it was handed to the winner, that was no longer Sam Bass' guitar.
Actually, once he was commissioned by whoever pays him to make those guitars and he received the check (if not earlier), his ownership ceased. It became a work-for-hire and later a trophy to be handed to someone else. Sam knew the score...
And as the old saying goes, "to the victor belong the spoils."
Many others, including Bass, have said that if he knew Busch was going to do something like that then they would have made a replica. This brings up a few issues:
1. No NASCAR driver I know of would ever dare to say that he was going to do such a thing in victory lane. Why? Not because it would piss people off, but because drivers are superstitious people.
You don't go planning victory lane celebrations until you get there lest you anger the gods and tempt the fates, something I'm sure Busch was not about to do given his run of bad luck as of late.
And for those who don't believe that Busch at least knows the superstitions, remember back to the day the drivers qualified for the All-Star race last year.
It was Humpy Wheeler's last All-Star race as a promoter and during qualifying, he was shown handing drivers fifty-dollar bills as is often the tradition regarding "show money" in short-track racing. 
Busch was interviewed before his qualifying run and asked what Humpy had said to him. Busch replied that Humpy had tried handing him a fifty and Busch had told him to keep it until after his run—he knew the bad luck associated with fifty-dollar bills.
2. To me, handing the winner the one-of-a-kind, priceless guitar in victory lane has never been a good idea. Every time I've seen someone handed one of those guitars I've thought like a caller on Wind Tunnel expressed last night.
This moment has been one waiting to happen. Hand a highly-charged, adrenaline-filled competitor with a penchant for showmanship a guitar and sooner or later someone was bound to do just what Busch did.

3. Finally, riddle me this...Why on earth do they ever hand a priceless trophy to the winner in victory lane in the first place?

They don't go carting the Martinsville clock to victory lane at Martinsville, nor some of the other "one-of-a-kind" trophies at other places.

At best they hand them a replica and deliver the real trophy to them later, and that to me has always been what they should have been doing at Nashville. 

Although I played bass very badly in a couple of bands in the 80's, I'll admit that I am by no means a guitar aficionado. 

But it seems to me that a priceless, one-of-a-kind guitar that is now being treated as "hallowed property" by everyone probably isn't done any good by having champagne, beer, gatorade, or the liquid of the day sprayed all over it.

Most important, it was Busch's trophy. He earned it and if he wants to show his jubilation over winning by trashing the thing (especially to fulfill a promise to share it with his teammates, who didn't seem too upset about it), then that's his right.

When you or I (who admittedly probably wouldn't have trashed it) win one, we can decide what we want to do with it. Until then, what he does with his property is really none of anyone else's business...

On a deeper level it brings into even stronger relief the fact that it's not the material things that matter to Busch or that should matter to the rest of us in life.

Of course, that's an easier statement to live by when you have the kind of money to buy the material things that Busch has.

And yes, Kyle Petty stated that he was bummed when he lost some of his trophies and thus thought it was wrong for Busch to do what he did. I would be bummed too. 

But isn't the act of winning and the personal knowledge of that win the important part? Isn't the sharing of that very trophy with his crew, even if poorly thought out, the important part?

And isn't leaving an indelible impression in the minds of those who saw it more important and more lasting a tribute than a trophy that can be replaced? Maybe it can't be replaced "exactly," but it can and will be replaced.

Finally, if Sam Bass has changed his tune since Saturday night and is now so upset over the loss, then maybe he shouldn't accept Kyle's offer to buy two new ones.

That would teach the boy not to mess with one-of-a-kind workmanship and think he can buy his way out of it. But I'll bet Sam takes the money and builds two more.

Yes, Busch could have executed it better. He could have at least made sure it would break the first time so he wouldn't have looked so silly bouncing it off the ground the with no damage the first go round.

Yes, other people may treasure their trophies and I know that Busch does too. That's why he not only spoke to Sam Bass and ordered two more, but he made sure to let him and others involved know that no disrespect was intended.

If you listened to Kyle Petty carefully, even he said he didn't see it as a sign of disrespect as he's sure Busch didn't intend it that way—he just didn't think it through.

Until NASCAR or the track owners/promoters at Nashville ban him from competing there, all the incident really did was bring them more publicity.

I wonder which of them is going to be first in shying away from more publicity?

If someone else views it as a slap in the face, that's their problem to deal with, not Busch's.

When that "someone else" wins a trophy, they may do whatever they want with it.

That's my $0.18. What's yours?


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