DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — As soon as Kurt Busch finished his lunch in a busy media center Thursday, he picked up his trash and offered to clean up everyone else’s mess.
The new and improved Kurt Busch, the older of the two racing brothers, has vowed to have fun this year. He now seems committed to finding the best of each moment, whether it’s driving a race car or cleaning off a table.
“It’s all good,” he said with a smile.
Even after Kurt Busch crashed two cars while practicing and racing in the Budweiser Shootout, he still smiled. The regular season starts Sunday, and there’s more than 14,000 miles to be completed before the end of the season.
That’s a long time to hold a smile, an even longer time not to have another emotional meltdown.
And a long time to change people’s minds.
“By the end of the season, people will see that I put fun back into racing,” he said. “It’s going to take time. It won’t happen overnight.”
There have been no such promises from his younger – and equally volatile – brother, Kyle Busch.
He, too, is driven by a passion to win. At the same time, he knows he has to find new ways to channel his frustration into more positive ways – a lesson learned the hard way when NASCAR parked him for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races in November at Texas Motor Speedway for crashing a competitor during a caution.
That transgression put a strain on his relationship with car owner Joe Gibbs and his sponsor, Mars. The candy company pulled its M&M sponsorship of the team’s No. 18 Toyota for the final two races of the season. That forced Kyle Busch to spend some of his off-season mending fences – and making yet another promise to get better.
“There’s no one to blame but myself,” he said. “There’s an opportunity for me to become a better person, to grow and learn from this, and I’m looking forward to those days.
“I want to be with Joe Gibbs Racing. I want to be in NASCAR. I have a strong path ahead that I’m excited about and looking forward to.”
Kyle Busch went a long way to winning back respect in the garage area with two incredible saves in the Shootout and a thrilling photo-finish victory with Tony Stewart. Much of the deafening boos that came from the grandstands during pre-race driver introductions changed to a roar of approval as he took his customary bow at the flag stand.