Long: Kyle Busch deserving champion despite whining by critics

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Kyle Busch finished what he couldn’t start.

And now he’s called champion.

As the sport celebrates Busch’s first Sprint Cup title, some are unhappy that a driver who missed the season’s first 11 races because of injuries suffered in an Xfinity race was even eligible for the championship.

They say that it was unfair to the competitors who ran the full schedule. They say that NASCAR shouldn’t have waived the Chase requirement that a driver start every race for Busch. They say that he had no business competing in the Xfinity Series race at Daytona in February, thus the injury was his fault.

Of course – and this is for those who only seem to respond with their caps button locked on – THEY’D BE WRONG. KYLE BUSCH IS A DESERVING CHAMPION BECAUSE HE FOLLOWED THE RULES AND BEAT EVERY OTHER DRIVER IN THE SAME FORMAT.

NASCAR did the right thing in granting the waiver. That didn’t mean Busch was going to make the Chase. He was so far behind in points that he would have to win a race to make the Chase – as long as he was in the top 30 in the standings after Richmond in September.

There was no guarantee Busch would win a race after returning. He averaged two wins a year the previous three seasons. Five of those wins came in races early in the season – races he missed while recovering from the broken right leg and fractured left foot he suffered in Daytona when he crashed into an unprotected concrete wall.

It’s not like Busch won a fuel-mileage race that he otherwise wouldn’t have won. He won at Sonoma – a track no one thought he could win as he continued to recover from his injuries. He led a race-high 163 laps in his victory at Kentucky. He led 96 of 301 laps to win at New Hampshire. He ran in the top five nearly all day at Indianapolis before taking the lead late and winning the Brickyard 400.

He also wasn’t the only driver to be granted a waiver. NASCAR granted one to Kurt Busch, who was suspended the first three races after a Kent County (Del.) Family Court Commissioner concluded that “it is more likely than not” that Busch committed an act of domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend. The Delaware Department of Justice later said he would face no charges.

Also, Kyle Larson missed the spring Martinsville race after a fainting spell the day before the race. He would have made the Chase had he won a race or been high enough in points.

As for the issue of why Kyle Busch was running in an Xfinity race? Many like to note that in no other sport does a pro compete in a lower level on a regular basis.

That’s where racing differs from other sports. Without sponsorship, teams don’t exist. Busch and Brad Keselowski have said that they’d run fewer Xfinity or Camping World Truck races but sponsors want them instead of drivers with little or no name recognition.

After Josh Berry finished seventh in his one and only Xfinity start this season at Richmond in September, team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. all but got down on his hands and knees afterward, begging that a company would sponsor Berry so they could put him in a car more often.

“I’m ready to race Josh every week,’’ Earnhardt said then. “We’ve just got to find a partner.’’

Instead, JR Motorsports will have Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier driving its cars next year. Both drivers brought sponsors. Good for them in understanding what it takes to survive in his climate. Don’t hate them, hate the system but also understand it’s not likely to change.

As long as companies decline to partner with drivers they’re unfamiliar with, Cup drivers – including Busch, Keselowski and Earnhardt – will run in other series. Money, not good intentions, pays employees.

The result was that Busch was in that Xfinity race at Daytona. As was Earnhardt, Keselowski, Larson, Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola, JJ Yeley, and Landon Cassill.

That’s how much the sport has evolved. Rick Hendrick put Jeff Gordon in a Cup car in 1992 before he had a sponsor. Hendrick said this year he wouldn’t do that in today’s economic climate.

Times change. As do points systems. Go ahead and live in the past, figuring out who might have had the most points in one system or another, but understand decisions would have been different and drivers would have raced differently in those scenarios, so what you think you see is not reality.

Reality is Kyle Busch is the Sprint Cup champion. And he earned that title.