A video of the ugly incident at the Gladeville track went viral, and prompted some to wonder if Busch’s racing career might end up like the guitar.
But the temperamental young driver bounced back from the embarrassment – he atoned by donating some guitars to a Nashville music class – and his career came full-cycle with last month’s NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
At the time of Busch’s Superspeedway antics it was obvious that he was an up-and-coming talent. The only question was, might he self-destruct, the way his older brother Kurt almost did?
NASCAR, more than any other professional sport, holds its athletes to a high standard in terms of personal behavior. Busch’s shameful exhibition at Nashville Superspeedway was a blemish on the reputation of the racer nicknamed “Rowdy.”
Cliff Hawks, the Superspeedway General Manager, was particularly upset. He said Busch’s trophy-bashing spoiled a victory-circle celebration that was intended to allow sponsors to bask in the spotlight.
“They weren’t at all happy,” Hawks said, referring to the Nationwide Series race’s title sponsors and their associates.
Neither was Sam Bass, the famous NASCAR artist who had spent countless hours hard-painting the guitar with various Music City images. The Nashville Superspeedway guitar had been judged one of sport’s most distinctive trophies by a national publication.
When Bass saw Busch smash the guitar on the concrete surface, he said “At first I was stunned. Then, when I got over my shock, it broke my heart.”
Busch shrugged off the incident, saying he decided to stage a “rock-star-type celebration.”
Some of Busch’s defenders said he was simply overly-exuberant and caught up in the excitement of the moment. But most of the reaction was negative.
NASCAR issued a statement that said, in effect, the trophy was Busch’s and he could do what he wanted with it. However, numerous national commentators expressed doubt that NASCAR officials would be so forgiving if a driver smashed to bits the crystal Daytona 500 trophy or the iconic grandfather clock trophy at Martinsville Speedway.
Although after the incident Busch continued to be one of the sport’s most temperamental drivers, he didn’t smash many more trophies – including two more he won at the Superspeedway in truck series races in 2010 and 2011.
Even Busch’s harshest critics had to be impressed with his amazing comeback from serious injuries suffered at the start of the 2015 season. He broke a leg and a foot in an Xfinity Series race at Daytona and was forced to miss the first 11 races of the Sprint Cup season. Most assumed his season was over, at least in terms of a title chase.
But he came back, and came back strong, winning five races including the season finale at Homestead, Fla., that secured the championship.
At age 30, Busch is entrenched as one of NASCAR’s most talented racers. Just as importantly, he has matured and reigned in his destructive temperament.
Both on and off the track, he’s come a long way from that embarrassing night in Gladeville.
Superspeedway saga continues
Speaking of the Superspeedway, it apparently will sit idle for a fifth season. NASCAR’s 2016 schedules are set, and the track is not included on any of the three touring series.
An announced sale of the track almost two years ago failed to materialize, and owner Dover Motorsports says it has no plans to re-open the facility under the company’s operation.