After winning the Federated Auto Parts 300 at Nashville Superspeedway back in 2009, Kyle Busch saw his opportunity to celebrate in classic rock star fashion. You see, the winner of the Nashville race was presented with a special Gibson Les Paul guitar trophy. Valued at $25,000, the trophy was hand-painted by the legendary artist Sam Bass, who also famously designed paint schemes for Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon.
While most NASCAR drivers would’ve appreciated the trophy for the work of art that it was, Kyle Busch isn’t most NASCAR drivers. Only 24 at the time, the driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing was really living up to that “Rowdy” nickname. When it came time to celebrate with the trophy in Victory Lane, Busch channeled Pete Townshend and smashed that sucker to kingdom come.
Now, a lot of the people in attendance and watching on TV were taken aback by Busch’s post-win antics, especially since Sam Bass himself was only a few feet away from him when he smashed the trophy. Unsurprisingly, Busch was unapologetic.
“It certainly drew the ire of the fans,” Busch said. “It is what it is. I thought it was a neat idea to share the guitar with the whole team, in the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll: smash it up, bang it up, whatever. It didn’t quite go according to plan in breaking. Gibson makes an awfully strong guitar.”
Joe Williams, who was the track announcer at Nashville Superspeedway at the time, was one of the many folks offended by Busch’s actions in Nashville.
“Most of us took that as a middle finger,” Williams told The Tennesseean in 2021. “He didn’t mean it that way. Nobody knew that in the moment.”
Later, Busch ordered a few replicas of the guitar from Bass and donated a large sum of money to music programs in Nashville. This helped to smooth things over with Bass, who passed away from kidney disease in 2019. It also helped to earn back Williams’ respect. But, that was later. In the immediate aftermath, Williams was fuming. He didn’t even want to talk to Busch after the race, only doing so because Bass insisted. His first question to Busch was the one on everyone’s mind: “Why?”
“The guys that were all on my team got a piece; I got a piece,” Busch responded. “There’s still that in the trophy case. I am ready for another one. That would certainly be cool to add to the trophy case again with a Cup Series trophy.”
Busch has yet to win the Cup race at Nashville, though he did win the Xfinity Series race when NASCAR returned to the Music City in 2021 after a 10-year hiatus. His Victory Lane celebration? Well, let’s just say that it made a whole lot of fans nervous.