I read an article this morning that compared Kyle Busch to the late Dale Earnhardt. On the surface of it, I had to laugh, but one of the things that amazed me was the readers comments that followed the story. Some of them scoffed at the notion, of course, but many agreed, and said that Kyle was the legitimate 2008 version of the Intimidator.
I think it's a bit early to compare a driver who has 5 Cup wins in 5 seasons of driving to a man who won 76 races and 7 Cup championships. Kyle has a pretty wild driving style that is impressive when it results in a pass for position, but looks pretty silly when it results in a spin or worse yet, takes out other drivers. The talking heads on Fox and ESPN have not been able to pay enough compliments to the 22 year old younger brother of 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch. To anyone but a Kyle Busch fan, the accolades have ranged from being simply overdone, to nauseating. Kyle appears to be very immature, and generally goes storming off when he finishes poorly. Kyle seems to not be in control of his emotions to the point that he can't realize that the reporters are only doing their jobs when they ask for a post race interview. His answers are short, snide, and usually very sarcastic.
On the face of it, 22 years old seems very young for a driver with the responsibilities that your average Nascar driver has. He's responsible for keeping his sponsors happy, for helping his team build better cars, and for trying to build a fan base which provides an outlet for merchandise. It's a tough job, but Kyle makes millions of dollars doing it. When you think about it, 22 years old isn't too young to accept responsibility, such as giving a short interview to reporters after a race. Kyle is not required to say nice things, but being accessible to the media is an important part of his job. Blow off enough interviews, and Nascar will have a serious talk with you. In some ways, media management is as important a skill for a driver to have as the ability to drive the race car. Don't believe me? Ask any team owner who's trying to attract and keep sponsorship.
22 years old is old enough for men and women to serve in combat. Many non commissioned officers and junior officers serve in this country's military. The average 2nd lieutenant in the US Army is about 22 years old. That's an officer that is deemed old and mature enough to lead a platoon of soldiers into battle. A 2nd lieutenant also does his job for a heck of a lot less money per year than Kyle Busch makes in just one race.
Kyle Busch' background is completely different from Dale Earnhardt. Kyle has been racing competitively from a very early age. Dale didn't get started racing until he was in his late teens. Kyle was a multi millionaire when he was 20 years old. Dale didn't even start racing full time in the Cup series until he was about 28 years old. Dale supported his racing habit when he was Kyle's age by working in cotton mills and tire shops.
Does Kyle Busch has as much talent as Dale Earnhardt? Only history will tell. Right now, Kyle Busch is a young driver with a ton of talent, but also a ton of immaturity.