Documentary ‘Rowdy’ about NASCAR star Kyle Busch goes beyond antics

When film producer Chance Wright called Kyle Busch to offer a documentary about the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Busch immediately said no.

“Who is going to want to see this? Busch remembers thinking.

It was a rare “human” moment for Busch, who is also known for his driving skill, feistiness and short temper that make him a lightning rod for controversy. Excerpts from Busch smashing guitars, swear at race officials and make fake crying faces on camera after the victories, YouTube circulates as much as videos of him driving on Victory Lane.

Wright eventually persuaded Busch to go ahead with the film, titled “Rowdy,” which premiered to friends, family and members of the media on Thursday. It is set to hit theaters in the United States for one night only on June 29.

The premiere took place three days before Busch raced at the Nashville Superspeedway, the site of his infamous guitar stunt.

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“Rowdy” focuses on a side of Busch that has been largely absent from the public eye. While Busch’s antics are at the center of many stories, the documentary chronicles the lowest moments of Busch’s life, as well as his rises to the top.

That’s what made Busch, who is usually uncensored on camera, hesitate.

“We talk about a lot of dirt and controversy in his career,” Wright said. “We explore the bad times and the issues, and when you go back to some of those things and pull some of those skeletons out of the closet, it’s hard for anyone to get through that.”

But when Busch had the opportunity to sit in front of the camera and tell his side of the story, he immediately opened up. He once spoke for over four hours, recounting intimate details of his life and career.

Between the 2004 death of Ricky Hendrick, a close friend and confidant who served as a leveling presence for the NASCAR star, and a nearly career-ending crash in 2015 that left him with a leg and a broken foot, Busch fell into mental turmoil a few times during his career.

“It was shocking at that time – at 19 – to see how fragile life is,” Busch said in the documentary about Hendrick’s death.

Eleven years later, Busch skidded off the track at Daytona International Speedway and hit the inside wall head-on while going over 90 miles per hour.

“We see pilots hitting walls back then, but the way it hit, the speed it hit and the angle, you were just praying for the best at that time,” Jamie Little said. , Fox Sports NASCAR reporter, in the documentary. .

Doctors estimated that Busch would be out for a year. He was back behind the wheel 11 weeks after surgery.

And less than six months after that, Busch won his first NASCAR Cup Series title. To celebrate, he threw himself into his signature antics: donuts on Victory Lane with screeching tires and clouds of white smoke billowing behind him.

‘The family business’

Busch’s on-track personality began to form before his racing days.

“He had little brother syndrome,” older brother Kurt said in the documentary.

Following in his brother’s footsteps, Busch entered the racing scene with a reputation that was not necessarily of his own making. Kurt was known for his fights, so when Kyle came out of his trailer for his first race at age 13, the crowd met him with a chorus of boos.

“Getting booed is a family affair,” ESPN NASCAR reporter Marty Smith said in the documentary.

His competitors were most often the victims of Busch’s short temper. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was Busch’s nemesis for years, he said.

The first time the two raced, Busch approached Earnhardt’s car and threatened “you better be careful”, as he drove past.

“I don’t remember, but I believe it,” Busch told the Tennessean. “It sounds like something I would do, for sure.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Kyle Busch (54) celebrates in victory lane after winning the Tennessee Lottery 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tennessee on Saturday, June 19, 2021.

Busch won his last Cup Series championship in 2019. He has no plans to retire any time soon.

“What you want to be able to do is be appreciated when you retire,” Busch said in 2016. “I know right now I’m not close to retiring and I’m not close to be loved. “

So why make a documentary about a career that isn’t over?

“It’s not the end of his story, but it’s a chapter,” Wright said. “There’s more to come, and no doubt another movie to be made when it’s finished.”

Emma Healy is a sports reporting intern for The Tennessean. Contact her at ehealy@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter @_EmmaHealy_.