Kyle crosses the line

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

It can't help but be noticed that Kyle Busch -- clearly the most talented race-car driver pound for pound anywhere, and yes that does include Lewis Hamilton -- is slipping dangerously close to becoming a caricature of his own bad-boy image.

There certainly is nothing wrong with cultivating a reputation that helps either motivate a driver on the track or intimidate competitors -- after all the beloved Dale Earnhardt made a career out of it -- but the line between motivation and making a mockery of the sport is thin.

And Busch crossed that line this past week when he threw some well-aimed darts at Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup's most popular driver.

In a clumsy effort to show he doesn't care that fans booed him mercilessly after his win at the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Busch attacked Earnhardt's status as the most visible of all NASCAR athletes.

"I haven't really paid attention a whole lot to the souvenir sales and stuff," Busch said. "I really don't care about that stuff. I'm not out there to be No. 1. We all know who No. 1 is and forever will be."

Busch couldn't even leave it at that. He had to take one more dig, but one does have to remember that it was Earnhardt who replaced the 23-year-old Busch after he was fired at Hendrick Motorsports

"For me, I don't think I would enjoy having the most fans out there," Busch said. "I actually like the way I am, the role I portray. And I think that there's probably too much pressure on one guy's shoulders who doesn't seem to win very often."

Ouch.

Billion dollar baby

The world's richest auto racing series gets the green flag early Sunday morning when Formula One revs its engines at the Australian Grand Prix in Mebourne.

There should be plenty of fireworks on the track as the big three -- Ferrari, McLaren Mercedes and BMW -- compete to show the world how much glory half a billion dollars can buy.

Forget all that talk that F-1 has levelled the playing field and that a new team, like Brawn GP, can jump right in and be competitive.

At the final race of the 2009 at Abu Dhabi it says here that the aforementioned Hamilton, behind the wheel of a McLaren Mercedes, Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Nick Heidfeld of BMW will be the only ones fighting for a world championship.

Junior takes blame

In this space last week it was noted that the less than stellar finishes posted in the past two seasons by Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet should be laid at the feet of crew chief Tony Eury Jr.

The next day at Bristol, Earnhardt stepped up to defend his pit boss and cousin.

"Every time I read in the paper that people are on his case, I feel like I am sending my brother to jail for a crime I committed, you know what I mean," Earnhardt said. "I feel bad for (Tony) because he just wants to work and have fun."

He said that criticism of the way the pair often argue, even during races, is not a factor in his performance.

"There are riffs between every driver and every crew chief, and they work it out or they don't," Earnhardt said.

"I think me and Tony, Jr. do a pretty good job of working it out. Obviously, through everything we have been through, we still love each other to death and would do anything for each other."

Good works

A note this week from John Baglieri, general manager of Crane Lake Resort, in Parry Sound, Ont., to point out that NASCAR Canadian Tire Series drivers have big hearts. "On Feb. 21 the resort along with the help of Court Armstrong and Beyond Digital Imaging and Kerry Micks (No. 02 Ford) put on a function called Dinner of Champions," Baglieri wrote. "This was a weekend of snowmobiling for NASCAR Canada drivers in appreciation for what they do. About 54 people showed up (drivers, pit crew and family) and everyone had a blast. On the Saturday night, we had a dinner and silent auction for Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. We ended up raising $1,500 for the hospital fund."

DEAN.MCNULTY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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