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Spot News Writing
Second Place
Kelly Crandall, Racer.com

Relief and Resolution for Kurt Busch

Nearly three hours after winning his first Daytona 500, Kurt Busch was finally finished with all of his obligations.

Thousands of pictures had been snapped in victory lane. Numerous television and radio interviews were given. A media center press conference was done. All the other spoils that come with winning the sport's biggest race had been taken care of.

Busch is now headed for his Stewart-Haas Racing hauler, the last one parked in the Daytona International Speedway garage, and still trying to wrap his head around the accomplishment of winning the Daytona 500. His first such victory in 16 tries.

With each step through the quiet and empty infield, all of Busch's past Daytona disappointments disappear into the brisk night.

Then came a question that made him pause before answering: With three second-place finishes and other tough losses that have occurred here, did Busch feel he had to win the Daytona 500 before his career was over?

"I wanted to," Busch told RACER, "and then when it isn't the realization ... let's just say 10 years from now, and you didn't win it, you have to accept that you didn't. This is a huge championship moment wrapped into 10 days.

"When we run for the title it's 10 weeks, for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup. These 10 days are the same as 10 weeks, except it's compressed, the emotions are. They're high. They're low. You have a bad practice, you're like, 'oh man!' You have a great practice, you're like, 'woo!' It's a championship all in one week."

Even without a Daytona 500 win on his resume, entering Sunday's race Busch had already established himself as one of NASCAR's premier drivers. In his 16 full seasons, Busch had accumulated 28 career wins, including in the All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. The 2004 season saw him ascend to the top of the sport when Busch won the first championship under the playoff format. Now add in a Daytona 500 triumph, and it's easy to start wondering where his place in the sport might be.

Busch doesn't. He's keeping the blinders on.

"I want to continue to win and do what Gene Haas hired me to do, and that's collect trophies," he said.
Daytona and Charlotte, wins like that are special of course. But next comes Atlanta. While there are other races out there he still hasn't knocked off his list, Busch goes week-by-week focusing on the immediate goal.

"I want to win in my hometown, though," Busch said of Las Vegas, which is the third stop on the schedule. "I want to win at Darlington. And I want to win Indy. I want to win everywhere. You know, Kentucky's cool, too. They're all great."

Daytona now gives Busch victories on 15 of the 23 tracks on the current Cup Series schedule. Newly remarried, he has appeared rejuvenated in his approach to racing. Being back in the Ford family has brought a comforting sense of familiarity.

In other words, just like he did with his attitude toward the Daytona 500, Busch is just plugging away.

"I'm having fun. I'm enjoying it," Busch said. "We just signed a new deal with Ford and with everybody at Haas Automation and Monster Energy, the ball doesn't just stop here. The tire's going to keep rolling, and we hope that we're rolling the right way to victory lane as we go."

Just give Busch time to roll through the post-race parties and victory media tour, first.