Back in 1984, Bonnie Tyler recorded “Holding Out For A Hero” which was a top 40 hit after being included in the motion picture soundtrack for the film Footloose.
As Tyler sang about where the good men had gone and how to fight the rising odds, she dreamed of what was needed including a white knight upon a fiery steed.
Almost 40 years later, many NASCAR fans are holding out for something slightly different, a villain to spice things up, cause some problems both on and off the track and most important, someone to root against.
While most fans realize it would be virtually impossible for their favorite driver to win every race, it may add to the overall race experience to be as passionate against a rival driver as it is to stand behind a favorite.
More times than not, recent drivers who have been vilified have failed to have the staying power to keep the negative fan reaction for much more than a handful of races.
Last year we witnessed this between Kevin Harvick and fan favorite Chase Elliott. While Harvick has plenty of fans on his own, after a few on track skirmishes with Elliott that suddenly made him the “Bad Guy” but it soon fizzled after the lack of additional incidents. With today’s social media, we are able to look into the driver’s home life and its just hard to keep disliking someone when you see them interacting with their children, smiling and being a generally good person.
Prior to Harvick, many fans invested in Joey Logano to be the best person to dislike. Back in 2013 Joey mixed it up with Tony Stewart among others. Over the years he has had run ins with many drivers including the playoff altering Matt Kenseth incident as well as with former teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.
The fans problem with Joey Logano doesn’t have anything to do with how aggressive he is on track, but he is hard to dislike off the track or when he doesn’t have a helmet strapped on. Married to Brittany and with three young children, Joey Logano is a very likeable guy. Take a few minutes exploring his foundation (see link below) and 90% of any dislike you have for the guy will quickly disappear….at least it should.
Before anyone is quick to jump back to disliking Harvick over Logano because of his foundation, I hate to disappoint you but Harvick has one too (see link below) which is just one more thing to make the guy more likeable.
You may be noticing a pattern of driver’s who are perceived as villains ending up being really great family figures with fantastic foundations making it virtually impossible for you to vilify them without making yourself look bad. It may be time to up our game and to target the ultimate Villain, Kyle Busch.
While battling his own brother Kurt to be NASCAR’s most disliked, Kyle Busch also has one of the largest and most “rowdy” fanbases around. During driver introductions, you can brace yourself for a deafening mixture of cheers and boos.
Before we dive too far into Busch, you may remember a driver with the name of Earnhardt who once famously said that "he didn't care if people cheered him or booed him, as long as they were making noise." Because if they have any sort of reaction, you know that you must be doing well.
Many of todays fans easily forget or never had the experience to see how Dale Earnhardt wasn’t always as loved as he was at the time of his death. Struggling for wins “humanized” him for many fans and he was spending less time “rattling cages” and more time helping his son, Dale Jr. and doing anything he could to help one of his closest friends, Michael Waltrip, make it to victory lane.
Even though the Dale Earnhardt Foundation wasn’t officially launched until after his death, he was extremely active with charitable programs and grants that sustained his lifelong commitment to Children, Education and Environmental/Wildlife Preservation.
Back to Kyle Busch, who may be the best option left. Like many others who have been mentioned, Kyle Busch is a winner which leads to many fans dislike because they get tired of that particular driver winning all the time. With Busch carrying the banner of winning the most races all time across NASCAR’s top 3 divisions in total, he easily eclipses that particular demographic of winning too often. This was also something that deteriorated the fan bases of drivers such as Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson over time.
While Kyle Busch has had his fair share of on track fisticuffs to help him earn the villain moniker, there are countless things that simply end up making him more likeable. One of the biggest factors is trying to hate the guy while your children are decked out from head to toe in one of his largest sponsors livery, M&M’s. At the end of the day, most of us like M&M’s so it’s a hard one to look past although many fans have.
What about when Busch had his accident in Daytona and battled back from massive injuries to win the Cup Series Championship. It’s incredibly difficult to dislike someone who had been through so much, was able to fight through the adversity and in the end, earn the championship.
Finally, more recently we have had the opportunity to see Busch with his son Brexton who has developed into quite the driver himself. For many this adds another strike against him being the ultimate villain and the likelihood of you getting over that is diminished ever farther if you take the time to learn about he and wife Samantha’s battle with infertility. Need a foundation to get you over the hump, the Samantha and Kyle Busch Bundle of Joy Fund should get you there pretty quickly.
So, after covering Harvick, Logano and Busch, it seems that most people are still left searching for the ultimate NASCAR villain so that they can better enjoy the NASCAR experience and their “hero” of a favorite driver. Before giving up on the Search, over the past weekend we were given an extra helping of Ty Gibbs and reminded that there is still hope.
After a dust up with Sam Mayer in the final laps of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Call 811 Before You Dig 250 At Martinsville Speedway, the two drivers exited their cars and began to have words. Things escalated quickly and before too long; Gibbs was throwing haymakers at the exposed head of Mayer while enjoying the protection of his own helmet.
Gibbs has had incredible success already at the ripe young age of 19. He competes full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, driving the No. 54 Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing. Gibbs was the 2021 ARCA Menards Series champion. He is the grandson of former NFL coach and current NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs.
After simply reading the above paragraph, many people dislike Gibbs for nothing more than seemingly being fed by a silver spoon. Add that to the success that he has on track (due to some unquestionable talent) along with the expected sharp tongue and missteps of an unpolished young man in a handful of interviews and Ty Gibbs has filled a void that many fans salivate for.
The question is, can he sustain the momentum or will Coach Gibbs intervene and change the storyline? Is it good for NASCAR if Ty Gibbs can be the ultimate Villain? Can he carry this into the Cup Series and will it simply help the argument if he boots another JGR driver from their existing Cup series ride?
As a fan of the sport, I hope he can!
Check out the Kevin Harvick Foundation:
Check out the Joey Logano Foundation:
Check out the Dale Earnhardt Foundation:
The Samantha and Kyle Busch Bundle of Joy Fund: