NASCAR & Auto Racing

Kurt Busch puts troubles in mirror with win at Richmond

Kurt Busch celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va., Sunday, April 26, 2015.
Kurt Busch celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va., Sunday, April 26, 2015. AP

Consider the page turned.

Or a new chapter started.

However you want to describe the latest defining moment in Kurt Busch’s NASCAR career – which has been replete with many – it comes at a place where Busch has always seemed the most comfortable, in Victory Lane.

Busch, who began the 2015 Sprint Cup Series season under NASCAR suspension, dominated Sunday’s rain-delayed Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, leading 291 of the 400 laps.

At one point in danger of losing his career, Sunday’s win virtually guarantees Busch will have a chance to compete this season for a second series championship.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling when you pull deep from within and you go through troubles and you know, when you’re accused of something and things go sideways, your personal life doesn’t need to affect your business life,” a clearly humbled Busch said after the race.

“And I’m here in Victory Lane.”

That possibility seemed almost incomprehensible just over two months ago when NASCAR indefinitely suspended Busch after a Kent County (Del.) Family Court commissioner issued an opinion in which he said Busch committed an act of domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend.

In the weeks that followed, the Delaware Attorney’s General office declined to press criminal charges against Busch and he completed NASCAR’s requirements for reinstatement.

He returned to his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team for the season’s fourth race, at Phoenix, and he and crew chief Tony Gibson haven’t finished worse than 15th since and have scored the second-most points during the six-race span.

The only driver to score more? Busch’s teammate and current series points leader, Kevin Harvick, who finished second Sunday.

“For us the last few weeks, we’ve not given away wins, but we’ve made some small mistakes and we’ve had some things go against us that it made us stronger,” Busch said.

“It really put a bond between all of us to (believe) the wins will come. We don’t need to force it, and let’s just settle in for the long run.”

Busch’s NASCAR career has had its share of volatile moments, including run-ins with the police, NASCAR officials and members of the media.

He lost high-profile jobs at Roush Fenway Racing and Team Penske and was forced to race with a lower-funded team before SHR co-owner Gene Haas elected to start his own Cup team from scratch last season and tapped Busch – who won the 2004 series championship – as his driver.

“I felt like Victory Lane is Victory Lane. It doesn’t change. As I’m older I can appreciate it more because of the time and effort that it takes to assemble a good group of guys,” Busch said.

“That’s where I recognize what now I might have took for granted when I was racing with (former crew chief) Jimmy Fennig in the Roush days and when we won the championship.”

Busch seems determined not to let that happen again.

His pairing with Gibson – a self-described “old school” crew chief – appears a perfect fit.

Busch has always been considered by his peers to be one of the most talented drivers in NASCAR, but the personal issues which have bled over to his racing have prevented him from realizing his full potential.

Perhaps that’s now changed.

“We share the same passion of racing,” Gibson said of Busch. “We don’t want to run second. We’re hard on ourselves when we’ve got to be to be better, and I think we both have that same mindset.

“I think he makes me be better, if that sounds right, and hopefully I make him be better. I think if we push one another and believe in one another like we’re doing right now and our team, we’ve got a shot to win the championship just as well as anybody.”

It certainly seems that way right now.

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