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Busch brothers try to harness emotions

12/1/2011 - NASCAR

LAS VEGAS -- Darian Grubb was choked with emotion on Thursday as he graciously accepted the Champion's Crew Chief Award for helping the driver who told him he wouldn't be needed after the season win his third Sprint Cup title.

Carl Edwards continued to be what may be the best loser any sport has seen as he relived losing the title to Tony Stewart by a tiebreaker.

And then there were the Busch Brothers.

The local boys -- Kurt and Kyle -- still were apologizing for their behavior over the final months of the 2011 season, actions that earned each a fine from NASCAR and embarrassed their sponsors and organizations.

They were trying to explain how people such as Grubb and Edwards can handle disappointment and defeat with style, while others like themselves threaten to become a black mark on the sport.

They were trying to explain why some people are even-keeled and others have Jekyll-and-Hyde personalities.

"I don't know," Kyle said after the Myers Brothers luncheon at the Bellagio. "It's not just us, either. There's other athletes and other people out there in the world that may have an issue or whatever it might be.

"It's not a problem, you know. It's just a matter of how we are and how we're chemically imbalanced."

Kyle is right. There are athletes in all sports who misbehave and embarrass the people they represent and work for. Look no further than Detroit Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, who this week was suspended by the NFL for two games after he forced a Green Bay Packers offensive lineman's head to the ground and then tried to stomp on his arm.

The question here is, why are some able to control their emotions and others aren't? Could upbringing be a factor? Kyle said he and Kurt grew up in the Vegas area listening to fans boo their father, Tom, because he dominated the local circuits.

Grubb grew up working for his father's construction company in a small Virginia town where "everybody tried to keep an even keel and enjoy life."

Is there a gene that makes the Busch brothers the way they are the same way there is a Grubb or Edwards gene that makes them the way they are?

"I suppose it could be," said Kurt, who is seeing a sports psychologist to help deal with anger issues that came to a head in the season finale when he verbally lashed out at ESPN's Dr. Jerry Punch for all the world to see.

He didn't elaborate.

But Kurt understands he has issues, as Kyle does. It doesn't necessarily make them bad people. Each does considerable charity work that has improved the quality of life for those less fortunate.

But for every step forward they take in building up their image, they seemingly take two or three back with behavior that outrages.

Kyle said he couldn't imagine how he would handle the disappointment Edwards felt after compiling a Chase-record 4.9 average finish but losing the title.

"He is a very ... very talented professional," Busch said of Edwards. "That's all I can say. From how he handled it, I couldn't have done it. I give him props."

It's hard not to. Even the most even-keeled personality might struggle with the disappointment Edwards felt. Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson said his wife, Chani, made him watch Edwards' postrace press conference "because she thought he did such an awesome job."

She didn't make him go back and look at Kurt's Homestead meltdown.

"Two extremes," Johnson said with a laugh.

And while Johnson believes upbringing plays a part in how people respond to adversity -- "I can hear my dad's voice in the back of my mind when I want to say something stupid" -- he doesn't buy that as an excuse for the Busches.

He shouldn't.

"When you get into your 20s and 30s ... I just think at this stage, at the top of auto racing, it's on you," Johnson said. "You can change. If they can find different outlets to vent, it would be a neat place to start."

Both Busch brothers insist they are trying to change, just as they have before. Both also admit it's hard.

"You can work 364 days on being positive and building towards a better platform and it takes just one day to knock it all back," said Kurt, who had multiple run-ins with reporters this season. "I need to harness what happens in the race car and keep it in there."

Said Kyle, who had M&Ms lift its sponsorship for the final two races after he intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr. in a Truck series race, "There's times when emotions can get the best of you.

"You feel like you're fighting every week to keep your job," he continued. "You're hanging around sponsors and they tell you, 'Hey, we need to win more often.' There's teams that don't win out here at all, and you're telling me I need to win more than four times a year. It's like, 'Geez, the pressure is on.' "

We all like to play psychologist from time to time and explain why one person is this way and the other is that. We also, whether we want to admit it or not, are drawn to sports and athletes because they have a bad side, an unpredictability that is invigorating.

Dale Earnhardt wasn't beloved because he was a choir boy.

The Busch brothers have been known to take bad behavior to another level. Fortunately, there are examples -- such as Grubb and Edwards -- to remind us that there is honor in humility.

Even Stewart has learned that to a degree after years of making mistakes.

"Absolutely there are guys that you expect that with," he said. "Darian has always been a class act and a great leader for us. He gave a perfect speech. Carl has always been that way from Day 1, whether his day is good or bad.

"I guarantee he handled [losing the title] with a lot more class than I would have been able to."

Then there are the Busch brothers. What does Stewart think about them?

"Why are you asking me that?" he said. "I don't know why people do what people do."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DNewtonespn.