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Long: Kyle Busch reveals human side in ‘hard as hell’ year

Michael McDowell's tire carrier Brett Sanchelli draws his strength from his sister Courtney, who was left a quadriplegic after an accident during their childhood.

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Maybe you view Kyle Busch as a hero. Or you see him as a villain. Maybe you consider him the greatest talent of his generation. Or the most spoiled driver in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Doesn’t matter.

In this world of soundbites and memes, it’s easy to forget Kyle Busch is just like you.

He’s human.

Regardless of what he can do with a stock car, Busch is not immune to life’s challenges. While some of his issues are hard to relate to because of his profession and pay, other hardships are similar to what many people have experienced.

He and wife Samantha were open about their struggle to have a child before son Brexton was born in 2015. The couple also shared their angst and pain in trying to have a second child before they used a surrogate for daughter Lennix.

Just as Brexton’s birth came amid turmoil for Busch (he was recovering from injuries suffered in a crash at Daytona months earlier), Lennix’s birth this past May comes amid a turbulent year for Busch.

He is without a contract for next season after a sponsor deal fell through earlier this year. The notion of Busch leaving Joe Gibbs Racing — his home since 2008 — seems more plausible each day.

Asked Saturday about what he’s gone through, Busch paused and then revealed a side he has not shown this year since suggesting in April that he might not be back with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Busch acknowledged Saturday at Watkins Glen International that “people aren’t going to feel or shouldn’t feel sorry for me” because of his social and financial status.

Then he explained what this year has been like.

“It’s been hard as hell,” he said. “It’s been a lot of sleepless nights figuring out what your future is and all that sort of stuff.”

Busch continued, speaking for nearly 90 seconds.

“Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, well, you’ve made plenty of money, you’re fine, you don’t have anything to worry about,’” he said. “And I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s true, but you still want to do what you love to do, right?’ … I’m in the same boat.

“I’m a racer. I’ve only ever known how to race. Nothing else. (I’m) trying to do other business projects and things like that, but none of them have really like blown up and taken off. So it has been hard, and figuring out all of that is certainly tough.

“The last time I went through this (changing rides) was 15 years ago, and it was a learning experience. It was hard then, too, but it was nothing like now. Then it was just me, myself and I.

“I didn’t have Samantha. I didn’t have a son. I didn’t have a daughter. All I had was an agent that was helping me. Now, I’m kind of on my own doing it, along with Samantha and the family, but going through many of the same things.

“It’s way, way harder because now you have Kyle Busch Motorsports (a Camping World Truck Series team) that you’ve got to think about. You’ve got a building that you’ve got to pay on. You’ve got a building note and all that sort of stuff. So there’s a lot, a lot, a lot of pieces and that’s why it’s not so simple.

“If you look at each aspect of everything of my life, which some of you may not know or may not fully know, there’s just a lot. So trying to take care of all those pieces and make sure everything goes as it was or as it has been the last few years would certainly be nice.”

The 37-year-old Busch is a two-time Cup champion and future Hall of Famer. His 60 career series victories are tied with Kevin Harvick for ninth on the all-time wins list. Dale Earnhardt is just ahead of them.

Such success makes it easy to see how a sponsor would want to be aligned with Busch. Those Victory Lane photos look nice in any office.

For all his ability, though, it’s not hard to go online and find clips of Busch’s temper, his R-rated radio conversations and him throwing a punch at Joey Logano in 2017 at Las Vegas.

Is that enough to scare some sponsors?

Another issue is timing. With a sponsor deal falling through this summer, Joe Gibbs Racing has less time to find a deal that will provide $20 million or more to fund Busch and his No. 18 team. The start of next season is less than six months away.

For companies that plot multi-million dollar deals well in advance, it makes it more challenging to complete such an agreement. Of course, if a company really wants to make it happen, it can get done.

As Busch looks to what his future will be, he admitted Saturday that his sleepless nights come from trying to figure out what his next course of action should be and how competitive he can be.

“You want to be able to go somewhere that you feel like you have a legit shot to race to win,” Busch said. “Trust me, I don’t feel like it’s fair to me or my family or anything else if we’re going to have to spend less time together moving forward because we are gonna have to change our lifestyle. No question, there’s a big change coming.

“And so you know, is it worth it to go run around and not have an opportunity to win right away vs. building something vs. jumping in something that can win? All those questions are certainly being weighed out.

“That’s also why it’s not so simple and so easy. So, thankfully, there are opportunities out there. There are Cup jobs available. But again, it will not look the same as what it has for the last 15 years.”

Times change, but that’s life. For all of us, including Kyle Busch.