CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kurt Busch started from the pole at Darlington Raceway and led 69 laps before his car began to fade. When it did, it triggered some of that salty language Busch is notorious for using on his in-car radio.
But the worst of it was still tame by Busch's standards – something he's been working on this year.
"Everything has been nice this year. Even though we've had some moments, like a dispute with Tony Stewart, it seemed to blow over," Busch said. "I'm just looking for a level line of emotions."
Emotions have often gotten the best of Busch, and it was this time last year when things started to unravel for the 2004 NASCAR champion.
NASCAR fined him $50,000 for reckless driving on pit road at Darlington and a post-race altercation with Ryan Newman's crew members. It sent him into the All-Star Race in a surly mood, and he quickly grew impatient with reporters attempting to talk to him about the NASCAR penalties and Newman's accusation that Busch had a "chemical imbalance."
"This is good for our sport. This is WWE-type action," Busch snapped. "This is fun. This is entertainment, right guys?"
Three weeks later, Busch was suspended for one race for verbally abusing a reporter following the Nationwide Series race at Dover.
He's not had the same kind of problems this year. As he heads into Saturday night's All-Star race, Busch is fairly drama-free.
That incident with Stewart he considers the only speed bump of the season occurred after the race at Richmond, when Stewart angrily banged into Busch's car on the cool-down laps because contact between the two on the final restart knocked Stewart out of the groove.
They exchanged words back in the garage, with Busch insisting the closing laps "were a free-for-all" and he did nothing wrong.
So the focus now has to be on his racing, which has been decent this year with Furniture Row Racing. Although he doesn't have the finishes to show for it, he's been running near the front and in position to pull off some big finishes of late.
"We keep gaining traction each week," Busch said. "We've been all over the map for results, but at the end of the day, there's been a solid, linear line of progression with speed, with team communication and just finding little things on the car to make it faster. It's always a matter of tying it together for a full race."
Busch has two top-five finishes, three top-10s, has led 108 laps and is 18th in the Sprint Cup standings. He might have won Talladega two weeks ago if not for a late accident that sent his car airborne.
Busch just wants his No. 78 team to be in position more often to run for wins.
"We want to find more," he said. "It's good that we have these chances, but we want to have more."