The Coca-Cola 600 on May 29 at Charlotte Motor Speedway gave us yet another first-time winner, as Austin Dillon in the No. 3 took a gamble on fuel and won the jackpot. In the manner of all drivers who claim their first checkered flag in NASCAR’s premier racing series – David Pearson, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Matt Kenseth, just to name a few — it was an exciting moment and a great story.
But it wasn’t the best story. That honor belongs to Kyle Busch, who finished second.
NASCAR requires the top three finishers in each race to come to infield media center for a little question-and-answer session with the press corps. It’s usually pretty status quo stuff, questions about things like changing two tires rather than four, or why the driver made certain decisions during the race.
Sometimes the Q&A is comical, and sometimes it’s contentious, but it’s always interesting, and can take quite a while in the case of a particularly eventful race. Believe it or not, some of those drivers are quite the little chatterboxes.
As the winner heads to Victory Lane, the second through fifth-place finishers are held on pit road for interviews. An obviously upset Kyle Busch had plenty to say.
“We ran our own race. We did what we needed to do and it wasn’t the right game. We came up short and finished second,” he said. “It’s a frustrating night, man. I am so, so disappointed. I don’t know. There’s nothing we could’ve done different. We just ran our own race and did what we needed to do for what we had going on and came up short.”
Then Kyle headed to the media center to rehash the night all over again. Apparently he got himself pretty worked up during the golf cart ride over there, because this interview wasn’t quite as cordial as the one on pit road. Here it is, in its entirety:
Moderator: We’re joined by the runner-up, Kyle Busch. Were you surprised that Austin could stretch it on fuel? What does it mean for Austin to get his first win?
Kyle Busch: I’m not surprised about anything. Congratulations.
And then, in the most laugh-out-loud funny moment of the entire season so far, in my opinion, Kyle did the infamous mic drop (our unlikely new pop culture phenomenon) and stalked out of the building.
He’s been taking a ton of criticism for this behavior, being called everything from a poor sport to a whiny baby. And all I have to say in response to that is … stop. Just stop, and really think about this for a minute.
Kyle Busch is one of the most talented athletes to ever drive a stock car. He has won championships in both the Monster Energy Cup Series and the Xfnity Series. He’s hotheaded and mouthy and a lot of people don’t like him, but a lot of other people do.
Most importantly, he’s a competitor. He hates losing; when it happens, he blames himself. He didn’t want to go to the media center after the Coca-Cola 600, but he did it anyway, only to have the first question of the evening be basically an attempt to elicit some praise for the guy who had just beaten him. It was too much to take.
Other drivers might have launched into a tirade, but Kyle Busch probably made a wise decision by just dropping the mic, getting up, and getting out of there. Can you blame him? I sure can’t.