NASCAR champ Busch backs masks in public as common courtesy

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Kyle Busch celebrates after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway Monday, May 25, 2020, in Concord, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kyle Busch says he supports wearing a mask in public so “we all can take care of our neighbor" amid the coronavirus pandemic, a rare instance of the two-time NASCAR champion wading into a social issue.

The reigning Cup champion rarely speaks on non-racing issues, but Busch entered the debate after images from short tracks over the weekend showed packed grandstands with little social distancing and few people wearing masks.

Busch retweeted a photo from South Alabama Speedway in Ozark, Alabama, and added his own message Sunday before the Coca-Cola 600. He applauded fans for supporting their local short tracks but suggested mandatory masks for admission for “healthier practices.”

The responses were mixed, not unexpected when it comes to the most polarizing driver in NASCAR. Busch is beloved by his “Rowdy Nation” base but loathed by others for his overwhelming success and confident, sometimes confrontational manner.

After winning the Xfinity Series race Monday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway — his 97th career victory in that series — Busch was asked why he stepped into the debate on mask usage.

“With where we’re at today, people are saying that masks don’t mean anything,” Busch said. “I still think there’s a sense of human hygiene and taking care of your neighbor. You go to a racetrack and you cough because you get water down the wrong pipe or whatever it might be, or if you sneeze or whatever, at least you are keeping some of that to yourself rather than just spraying, right?”

Busch added he doesn't think masks can fully stop the spread of the coronavirus but believes they are useful when social distancing can't be practiced. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

“I saw the grandstands packed and just figured, ‘Hey, you know, we all can take care of our neighbor,'” he said. "That’s just kind of my idea. It’s arguable whether or not they really work. I just think it’s common courtesy.”