Kyle Busch is a very talented racecar driver. There are many who say, despite never winning a championship in any of NASCAR’s top three series, he is, in fact, the best driver in the sport. However, he is also the most egotistical, arrogant, and volatile driver in the sport as well. His recent purposeful wrecking of fellow competitor Ron Hornaday Jr., in a Camping World Truck Series race, at Texas Motor Speedway may actually bring his own career to a crashing halt.
NASCAR is a sport with a heavy reliance on corporate sponsorship. In no other sport are the participants more closely tied to the companies they represent than NASCAR. Drivers not only compete in cars which for all intents and purposes are mobile billboards travelling at high speeds at tracks throughout the country for 43 weeks a year. They also wear firesuits bearing the companies’ branding and logos while being interviewed or photographed. Many of these companies use the drivers in national advertising campaigns, as well.
The reason companies are drawn to become sponsors of NASCAR race teams is not only limited to the amount of television exposure the sport receives. NASCAR fans are known to be among the most loyal supporters of products, not only endorsed by their favorite driver, but just about anything associated with NASCAR. They have been known to actually purchase one product over another based soley on whether the company is involved with the sport.
This same loyalty may turn out to be the ultimate reason Kyle Busch finds himself out of the M&M’s Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing at year’s end. As much as fans will support a product endorsed by their favorite driver they will just as feverently not purchase a product associated with one they truly dislike. Kyle Busch may be the most hated man in NASCAR right now, and the colorful candies he is sponsored by may find themselves passed up in favor of another snack.
Beyond a loss of sales, companies do not like their spokesperson to be a devisive figure. There is little doubt Mars, the parent company of M&M’s candy, will not take notice of comments on their social media sites, as well as e-mails directed to the company calling for the removal of Busch from their brand. Although this is a brand also marketed to children, they certainly don’t want their spokesperson acting like one. Especially a spoiled brat who throws temper tantrums.
Kyle Busch also just happens to race for one of the most respected car owners in the sport, Joe Gibbs, who is known to expect professionalism from all his employees. He is a deeply religious man who is nown to be forgiving, and willing to give people second chances. Problem is Kyle Busch is well past his secomd chance.
The dilemna Joe Gibbs may actually face is sponsorship over talent. While there is no doubting Busch’s talent, it takes millions of dollars to compete at the level Joe Gibbs Racing does. With the current state of the economy sponsorship is hard to come by, this all may eventually come down to a matter of dollars versus common sense. It doesn’t make sense to keep Kyle if they cannot find a company willing to support his efforts.
Another factor that could contribute to the release of Kyle Busch by Joe Gibbs is the fact that several current drivers are available for the 2012 season. Drivers such as David Ragan, Brian Vickers, David Reutimann, and even possibly Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne are all talented, proven winners, whose plans for 2012 are still up in the air.
Ragan and Bayne would certainly be appealing to Joe Gibbs for not only their religious upbringings, but also their squeeky clean images. They are both the closest you can come to being the opposite of Kyle Busch, while knowing they can get it done when given quality equipment.
Kyle Busch definitely takes his own path in racing. His competitiveness, and ego, have propelled him to more wins in NASCAR’s three top series than any other driver that he competes against. However, that path may ultimately lead to him a very uncertain immediate future. One where he is no longer the driver of the M&M’s Toyota or a member of the Joe Gibbs Racing team.