Like an adult bringing kids to Disney World for the first time, Kurt Busch showed his Phoenix Racing team the wonders of a NASCAR Victory Lane on Friday night after winning the Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Busch beamed after winning on a wild night, sitting in the media center alongside crew chief Nick Harrison – who won in NASCAR for the first time and had never done a post-race news conference before.
"It means a lot to me," Busch said, sounding emotional. "But it means more to these guys."
That was the theme of the night for Busch, who appeared truly moved to see his team – a group of tight-knit underdogs who always have his back – overjoyed and infused with the sensation of winning a national series race.
"I don't care about me right now," Busch said. "Tonight is about Phoenix Racing. ... I'm glad this is an impound race and the (Sprint Cup) garage doesn't open until 3 (on Saturday afternoon), because these guys are going to need to sleep in a little bit. Just sayin'."
Harrison, the crew chief, praised his driver for overlooking some of the team's shortcomings – things as small as old, scratched windshields. He's been an unrelenting Busch defender, sticking up for him at Darlington in the Ryan Newman incident and celebrating his driver's gutsy Sonoma effort as if it were a win.
And the whole team feels the same way Harrison does: They won't give up on Busch, and he won't give up on them.
"There's heart and passion out there that these big teams ain't got," Harrison said. "It's a little bit on the emotional side, it really is. We all love each other, and it's awesome."
After Harrison said those words, Busch turned to him and smacked him affectionately on the shoulder.
"Ask Nick a question if you guys can get him one," Busch said, prodding reporters.
For a driver who always seems to be under fire – often because of his own doing – Friday night's race was a positive step in the right direction. It'll take many more nights like Daytona to repair his image, but it's not impossible.
"This is a big deal to us, for a team that hasn't had a sponsor," Busch's girlfriend Patricia Driscoll said. "And he's taken a lot of heat. Some of the stories about his future haven't been nice, like, 'Where's he gonna go? Is he really sponsorable?'
"I hope that tonight shows people what a good driver he is, but that he's committed and passionate about his racing."