In this day and age of video clips and instant clicks, it isn’t hard to look up moments from Kurt Busch’s career, moments that would, no doubt, in retrospect, be pretty embarrassing. Remember his “back of the field” gesture to Jimmy Spencer at Indy in 2002? Or his countless radio blow-ups when driving for Penske? What about his raging toward Dr. Jerry Punch in 2011?
All very embarrassing, no doubt. Busch has proven himself time and again to be very competitive and to hold himself and his team to a higher regard. He’s a champion. He’s won on every type of venue. He’s undoubtedly one of the best in the business driving for one of the best organizations in the business. Eighteen years after his Cup debut, we’re now seeing a man who seems to be at peace after all he’s accomplished and endured in a sport he loves.
Sunday at Las Vegas, Busch’s No. 41 was quietly running near the front when the car got away from him, sending him into Chase Elliott and the wall beyond. A frustrating end to an otherwise strong run, with Busch exiting the remains of his Ford and taking the mandatory trip to the Infield Care Center. Instead of showing anger and the once-familiar Busch rage, he was apologetic to Elliott, telling Fox Sports that he “hated it for all of the Chase Elliott fans and Kurt Busch fans.”
Later on, in a Twitter video posted to his account, Busch still seemed upset due to the day’s events, only to be surprised by his wife, Ashley Busch.
Not the result I had in mind. Can not believe I wrecked. I let everybody down and in the process, ruined @chaseelliott day. Then this happened… S/O to #FelixSabatesFordCharlotte thank you! And my love @MrsAshleyBusch for the surprise! pic.twitter.com/DK5IpilJHs
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) March 5, 2018
This isn’t a fluke; after crashing out of the Daytona 500 in February, Busch responded to Ryan Blaney’s apology with another encouraging tweet:
Proud of the way you drove kid! Our Fords were strong, and we both wanted it.
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) February 19, 2018
This was a side of Busch that’s always been there. It just hasn’t been seen as often as his angry side. Many are quick to credit this to his return to the sport following a brief suspension in early 2015 on allegations of domestic violence. In the days after, it did seem like he was mellowed, calmer, and for the most part quieter. Others credit his marriage to Ashley. After a previous marriage ended in divorce and a well-publicized break-up with a long-time girlfriend, Busch seems to be at peace with things and himself.
The results have translated into success. He won the 2017 Daytona 500 and ended the season with six top-fives and 15 top-10s. Also worth noting was his track-record pole win at Texas Motor Speedway in November. In 2018 he’s had two crashes, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s run near the front in all three races this season, including his first-ever stage win at Daytona.
Busch isn’t winning as much as his teammate Kevin Harvick; he hasn’t won since his Daytona 500 in. No doubt that’s a priority for him and there’s no question that it pains him that he hasn’t won since then. But his new demeanor, that of a relaxed, quiet, at-ease veteran whose competitive streak has transformed but not diminished, will carry him to a win in 2018. He’s capable, as is his team, and his cars this year are good enough to carry him to Victory Lane. It will happen this year.