Is Kyle Busch no longer NASCAR’s black hat?

FONTANA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 26: Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway on February 26, 2023 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

After his victory at the Auto Club Speedway, Kyle Busch was showered with cheers from the stands. Has he ditched the black hat?

Kyle Busch climbed out of his car on the frontstretch at Auto Club Speedway, grabbed the checkered flag, and did the traditional bow he’s done over 60 times in his NASCAR career. Only this time, however, something was different. There wasn’t the chorus of boos.

“Yeah, man. Rowdy Nation is growing, loud and proud. Watch out, we’re going to take over.”

Sure, you heard some jeers, but not overwhelming applause. So with that said, has Busch turned babyface?

Talk about a culture shock

For years, Kyle Busch embraced the role of NASCAR’s villain. Often gesturing to the chorus of jeering fans with a “cry about it” motion. As someone who’s followed NASCAR for well over 20 years of his life, both as a race fan and sportswriter, I didn’t see this coming.

And who would’ve? After all, this same guy received death threats for months, after he wrecked Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the closing laps of a Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway in 2008. It got to the point that his own team took circuitous routes out of race tracks, just to avoid fans who wanted to harm him.

Three years later, NASCAR parked the same Busch for the rest of a race weekend, after he intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution, in a Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Moreover, earlier that same season, he antagonized Richard Childress Racing to the point that after a Truck race at Kansas Speedway, team owner Richard Childress punched him in the garage area.

Fast-forward to Sunday, Busch won his first Cup race as a driver for that same team owner. Childress told him that this was the first of many victories to come and showed him the Chevrolet hat he has in victory lane for 2023. This goes back to an RCR tradition of filling out that year’s hat with the track and the signature of the winning driver.

“Hopefully we get to fill that thing up. It’s always on the inside, so hopefully we get to fill that thing up.”

Only now he might now be a fan favorite.

Only time will tell

Of course, this could all change in a matter of weeks.

So whether or not this sticks, only time will tell. For now, however, just the fact that this is now a serious possibility was unthinkable just a few years ago.

Featured Image Credit: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images