On Sunday, April 14, Tiger Woods shocked the sports world when, despite the odds being incredibly stacked against him, he won the 2019 Masters Tournament, marking his first major championship win since 2008 and his first Masters win since 2005.
Many are already calling it the greatest comeback in the history of sports, but not even a day into Tiger’s big win, and network talking heads and would-be pundits were already scrambling to compare Tiger’s incredible career and legacy to athletes in other sports. Because, you know, the hot take machine can never take a day off.
On a recent episode of NASCAR America’s MotorMouths, a caller who went by the name “Texas Tommy” decided to try his hand at dishing out a piping hot take, by comparing Tiger Woods to none other than Kyle Busch. Analysts Kyle Petty (a former NASCAR driver and the son of Richard Petty) and Steve Letarte (the former crew chief of Dale Earnhardt Jr.) were all too happy to discuss.
“He’s about the best driver NASCAR has and (most) dedicated of races he’s put in in the Cup, Truck and Xfinity Series,” the caller said. “He’s about the best driver that I can come up with next to Jimmie Johnson. He’s shown promise in every series and he has no stop in him.”
Petty didn’t necessarily disagree with “Texas Tommy,” though he added that Tiger’s impact on golf is much more prevalent than Busch’s impact on professional auto racing.
“That’s a valid point if we look at wins and what he does on the racetrack,” Petty said of Busch. “Yes, (Busch) has those numbers. Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters and 15th major, all that. You look at all that and what Kyle Busch has done at a relatively young age, Tiger Woods did the same thing at a young age.”
“The problem is, and the difference is, Tiger Woods has the entire sport of golf on his shoulders. It grows, it falls, it goes to the left, to the right. Everything Tiger does, every fan that follows golf is watching, whether you like Tiger Woods or not.”Advertisement
“Kyle Busch doesn’t have that. He isn’t that way, he doesn’t have that connection to the fans, for whatever reason. People love to boo him, but if they boo him, they’re not going to follow him. I don’t know if we have that Tiger Woods personality or person (in NASCAR). I think Kyle (Busch) moves the needle for me. What he does on the racetrack, what he does in the garage area or on the radio, he moves the needle. Jeff Gordon moved the needle, then Dale Jr. moved the needle, and then there’s been nobody since.”
While agreeing with Petty’s assessment of Tiger, Letarte added that there is one driver who actually has the potential to emerge as the Tiger Woods of NASCAR from a total package perspective: Chase Elliott.
“Tiger Woods doesn’t move the golf needle, he moves the needle outside of golf,” Letarte said. “That’s really what we’re talking about. Let’s be clear. There are very few people in any sport that transcend their sport. Tiger Woods is one of them.”
“Jeff Gordon was on Saturday Night Live, he was outside of NASCAR. In the current world of NASCAR, Clint Bowyer has a great personality, but doesn’t have Tiger Woods numbers on the race track. Kyle Busch, I’m not going to say he has Tiger Woods numbers, but he’s one of a few that have great numbers but lacks the relatability, the needle, outside the sport. You can’t generate it, something has to cross.”Advertisement
“You have to have someone like perhaps Chase Elliott, someone who has the opportunity and the image and the ability.”
Strong words from the former crew chief of Dale Jr., though his claim did come with a massive “but.”
“But then Chase Elliott has to deliver the numbers that we’ve never seen before, because that’s what Tiger Woods did. You’ve got to start talking 10-win seasons and championships.
There is no recipe. It just happens.”
Obviously, comparing anyone currently in NASCAR to Tiger Woods is a tough sell, but hey, it makes for ridiculous debate.