Kyle Busch didn't paint a moustache on the Mona Lisa.
He didn't burn the flag. He didn't scratch himself, a la Roseanne Barr, during the national anthem.
Kyle Busch destroyed a guitar that belonged to him, or more aptly, tried to destroy a guitar that belonged to him.
It wasn't exactly vintage Jimi Hendrix or Pete Townshend, but it was every bit as startling as the guitar-smashing scene in the 1966 Antonioni film Blow-up
, where Jeff Beck of the Yardbirds uses his guitar as a weapon against a balky amplifier - and does a much better job of breaking the instrument than Busch did last Saturday in Nashville.
In this case, the guitar was a trophy Busch had earned for winning the Federated Auto Parts 300 Nationwide Series race at Nashville Superspeedway. Motorsports artist Sam Bass had hand-painted the Gibson Les Paul, roughly a $2,000 instrument. For the past eight years, the Speedway has presented a unique guitar to each of the winners of its races.
Busch's out-of-context celebration took place in victory lane, to the apparent astonishment and chagrin of Bass, track general manager Cliff Hawks and representatives of the title sponsor. The driver had promised each of his crew members that he would smash the guitar trophy and give them each a piece. He kept his promise - or tried to, at least.
Since then, a groundswell of outrage has reached tidal wave proportions. Criticism of Busch's act of destruction sailed past 'irrational' a few days ago. “What if he had smashed the Daytona 500 trophy or broken the grandfather clock at Martinsville?” are oft-repeated themes.
At last check, no rock bands were smashing either grandfather clocks or Daytona 500 trophies in iconoclastic frenzies. One of the reasons Busch planned to smash the guitar 'rock-star-style' was precisely because of what it was — a guitar, not a clock or some other piece of hardware.
In the past few days, Bass has described himself as stunned and heartbroken over the incident. Hawks has chided Busch and emphasised that the track had no part in the planning or execution of the guitar smash.
“I don't think he gets it,” Bass told veteran motorsports writer Larry Woody. “He destroyed something that can't be replaced. He can buy a replica, but he can't replace the original.”
Wait a minute. It wasn't a van Gogh. Nothing against artists such as Bass and Garry Hill, who have devoted their careers to chronicling and preserving the highlights of NASCAR racing — and have done so with exceptional flair and creativity. Typically, though, their work hangs in context-appropriate places such as Speedway Clubs at racetracks across America—not in the Louvre.
And if Bass ever wanted a publicity boost, the viral YouTube video of the victory lane celebration all but assures that if Busch's guitar were ever sold at auction, it would fetch by far the highest price ever for a Sam Bass original.