Kyle Busch's now infamous Coca-Cola 600 post-race interview created quite the stir. It seems like everyone has an opinion on it, and like most things Kyle Busch, some were bothered by it while others were not.
In retrospect, it is a classic moment that will go down in NASCAR history.
His six word presser will endure long after memory of that nine-second performance fades. Oh, it will take a while before we forget the second place finisher huffing in his modified downward "Surrender Cobra" pose before picking up the mic in his right hand to answer the only question asked and gripping it with the same finger he'd just removed from his nose in an unsuccessful attempt to extract some offensive Charlotte debris, uttering the now famous six-word reply before dropping the mic. When no further questions were asked, he was finally dismissed like a misbehaving school boy who then stomped hurriedly out of the room to do whatever, wherever.
It was quite a performance. Some attributed the behavior to his overpowering desire to win and deep hatred for losing. That may be true. I guess drivers who hate to lose also get a pass on poor personal hygiene practices as well. I hope some handler had the foresight to wipe the mic off before the next competitor picked it up.
But that will all soon be forgotten. It's all a part of "Boys have at it!" attitude the sanctioning body encourages in an attempt to overcome the corporate sanitized versions of wheelmen (and lady) we have today. This performance definitely broke that sanitized image.
Yes, the performance will eventually be forgotten, but his words, his six word response have now become a part of NASCAR immortality. His terse, insincere utterance now takes its place among other notable, once timeless racing phrases, like -
"Boogity, boogity, boogity... Let's go racing boys!" I just wish this would go away, but it's like an irritating fan belt squeal; no matter how hard you try it just won't.
"If you're not first, you're last" was the mantra of the infamous Ricky Bobby of "...Talladega Nights" fame. Sometimes I wonder if the driver of the 18 believes that movie was actually a racing documentary and lives by that as well.
"To finish first, you must first finish". I've heard that one as long as I've been around racing.
"... he didn't slam you; he didn't bump you; he didn't nudge you... he *rubbed* you… and rubbin, son, is racin.'“ I believe that was an old Harry Hyde one, resurrected by the character "Harry Hogg" from that other NASCAR "documentary", "Days of Thunder"
And who can forget those famous words uttered by Mike Helton after the announcement of the Chase? "It is what it is."
And finally the all-time racing phrase from the King himself, Richard Petty "It was one of those racing deals."
Depending how those words rolled off his lips in his distinct North Carolina dialect they perfectly covered everything from the best possible thing that could happen on the track to the absolute worst and everything in between.
The beauty of those words is depending on how the King delivered them, there was never a question what they meant and how they were intended.
Petty's phrase is the absolute best, but a strong case can be made that Busch's quote is like his Charlotte finish that triggered them, a close second. Oh, some phrases above are better but unfortunately due to recent changes in the series are no longer true and must be eliminated from contention. Take for example -
"BBBLGRB" is just downright irritating and is only a part of the racing vocabulary for half the season anyway. Once the utterer is off screen it will disappear.
"If you're not first, you're last" and "to finish first, you must first finish" are no longer true with stage racing. You can win two stages, finish dead last and still leave with more points than the race winner, so strike those.
The current aero-dependent cars in the series have made Harry Hogg/Hyde's "...rubbin's racing" quote invalid as well. If you even touch and crinkle this sheet metal your day is done as you'll never get the handle back. Slams, bumps, nudges and rubs now have dire consequences on your chances of winning.
So that leaves us with Helton's "it is what it is" and Kyle's now immortal "I’m not surprised by anything. Congratulations" as truly timeless racing phrases.
In his resultant post-post-race press conference explanation, Kyle Busch took no personal responsibility for his behavior, instead attributing it to genetics and God. In effect, he used a personal variation of Helton's "It is what it is", which comes off more like the old Popeye description "I yam what I yam". Can't you just see him singing his version of the Popeye theme song -
"I'm Kyle Busch the race car man/
Drives race cars as fast as I can/
If I lose or crash/Then I show my... tailpipes/
I'm Kyle Busch the race car man/
Vroom - Vroom"
(Editor’s Note: Adorable lyrics, but this lady claims first credit for the comparison of Mr. Helton to Popeye and you can verify by clicking right around here somewhere. )
Like the King's "racing deal", Kyle's utterance is nearly perfect. Not only was it the perfect response to the question asked in the press conference but depending on delivery, inflection and body language it can be used in about any racing situation-good, bad or unexpected. Let's take a look.
Q: "Jimmie, you have eleven wins at Dover. Did you think you could ever do that?"
Jimmie Johnson: (elated) "I’m not surprised by anything."
Q: "Joey, what do you think about Kyle coming after you after the Las Vegas race?"
Joey Logano: (excited) "I’m not surprised by anything. Congratulations"
Q: "Brad, what do you think about the contact between you and Kurt Busch that ended your day at Dover?"
Brad Keselowski: (disappointed) "I’m not surprised by anything. Congratulations". Note-In reality, Brad actually chose the King's "racing deal" in his response, again showing its timeless perfection.
But Kyle's six words (or five depending on the situation) could be used to respond to off-track situations as well.
Q: "Kyle, you are the leader in stage racing. What did you think when NASCAR arbitrarily added a fourth stage to the Coca-Cola 600 right before the race?"
Kyle Larson: (smiling) "I’m not surprised by anything."
Q: "Danica, can you describe what it feels like to have the Nature's Bakery lawsuit behind you?"
Danica Patrick: (sigh of relief) "I’m not surprised by anything."
Q: "Rick, what did you think when Dale Jr. told you he was going to retire at the end of the 2017 season?"
Rick Hendrick: (dejected sigh) "I’m not surprised by anything. Congratulations"
Q: "Dale, Jr., what did you think when you caught Kyle Busch's trip and fall in the Charlotte pits?"
Dale Jr: (laughing) "I’m not surprised by anything. Congratulations". Note - Dale Jr. did use a variation in his initial tweet, so it proves its applicability.
Q: Martin, Did you know Kyle Busch picked up the mic with his snot covered nose-picking finger right before you picked it up to give your interview?
Martin Truex, Jr: (shocked) "I’m not surprised by anything."
Q: "Brian, what do you think about the Dover TV ratings? They earned a 2.1 final rating and 3.4 million viewers on Fox Sports 1 Sunday afternoon - down 16% in ratings and viewership from last year (2.5, 3.99M) and down 16% and 15% respectively from 2015 (3.9, 3.94M) and was the lowest rated edition of the race since at least 1998 or in other words the lowest rated edition of this race in this century?"
Brian France: "We were still the number two watched sport of the weekend, behind the NBA playoff games. You know the NBA season is almost as long as ours and they are in the equivalent of their Chase... I mean Playoff right now so they are going to be tough to beat now. We did kick some major hockey butt though. Whoever Stanley is, his Cup is no match for the Monster Energy NASCAR Series Cup and we proved it once again. We might not be first but we're not last, no matter what Ricky Bobby says."
OK - so it's not perfect and it depends on the deliverer, but you have to admit, it is right up there.
So now that Kyle Busch has made NASCAR immortality I'll watch press conferences and interviews with renewed interest to see if it is used and if not, could it have been.
I'll be watching Kyle Busch's behavior as well, to see his next performance and remember no matter if it's good or bad, mature or immature, classy or classless, it is what it is; just one of those racing deals and I'm not surprised by anything. Congratulations.