Joe Gibbs is one of the most respected men in sports, so when he uttered these words on Tuesday—“We love Kurt (Busch)"—the immediate reaction was one of shock and disbelief.
As in, “What the heck is he thinking?"
That’s what nearly everyone thought when Gibbs declared that he might consider hiring NASCAR’s most controversial driver for his Sprint Cup team next season.
Even after reading those words over and over again, the reaction for many is still the same.
“What the heck is he thinking?"
Gibbs is one of the smartest men in professional sports. He won three Super Bowls as head coach of the Washington Redskins. He’s won 96 races and three NASCAR Cup championships as a team owner.
A charismatic figure and popular motivational speaker, Gibbs is considered one of the greatest minds in sports and a man who is widely respected across many avenues.
So what the heck is he thinking by wanting to be associated with NASCAR’s biggest troublemaker and the spot’s reigning Bad Boy?
Especially since he’s spent the past five seasons trying to tame the driver who was previously NASCAR’s biggest villain—Kurt’s younger brother, Kyle.
For the past few years, Kyle Busch has caused Gibbs all kinds of headaches—from run-ins with other drivers, to a highly publicized speeding infraction (a public highway speeding infraction) to an embarrassing and damaging NASCAR suspension.
But Kyle is a choirboy compared to his big brother, who's been shown the door by two elite NASCAR teams because of his behavior on and off the track and run-ins with a variety of people, from TV reporters to sheriff’s deputies to NASCAR drivers and officials.
Why would Gibbs want to be associated with a driver who, despite 12 years in the sport, has yet to demonstrate that he can control his temper and emotions?
Because Gibbs might the only man in NASCAR who can control the temperamental Busch, the only man who could tame and control the sport’s most combustible driver.
Gibbs has a long track record of dealing with troubled and troublemaking athletes. From his days coaching such NFL stars as John Riggins and Dexter Manley to fielding racecars for hotheaded drivers like Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch, Gibbs has a way of pushing the right buttons with such outlaws.
He not only is tolerant and patient with star athletes who stir up trouble, but he has a way of navigating through such trials, smoothing over any ill will with sponsors, NASCAR and other competitors.
But if he hires Kurt Busch, that might be his biggest challenge yet. After a turbulent career with Roush Fenway Racing—which included an ugly confrontation with Arizona sheriff’s deputies—Roush officials were glad to see Busch go—despite him delivering Roush’s first Cup championship in 2004.
“We’re tired of being Kurt Busch’s apologists," team president Geoff Smith said at the time. Sporting News