Everything came together for Kyle Busch at Richmond International Raceway last weekend.
Kyle Busch Motorsports won its first Nationwide Series race, but it wasn't the owner behind the wheel. And on Saturday night, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver won his fourth consecutive spring race at Richmond International Raceway and broke his longest streak -- 20 races (Aug. 21, 2011) -- without a win in one of NASCAR's top three divisions since 2006.
Each accomplishment carried different rewards.
In regards to Busch's day job in the No. 18 M&M's Toyota -- and ultimately his primary source of income -- 2012's results had been inconsistent. Only once had Busch moved into the top 10 in the points standings. Only twice before Saturday night had Busch led laps in Cup races.
And fans have to wonder where the excitement has been this season.
Certainly, the show loses some of its luster when Busch doesn't bring his A-game. But since last November's run-in with Ron Hornaday at Texas, subsequent benching from NASCAR, and chewing-out from team owner Joe Gibbs after receiving tremendous pressure from sponsors, Busch appears more subdued.
He acknowledged before the season began that despite fans' desire for Busch not to change, something had to give.
"At the end of the day, it doesn't seem like me not changing anything is helping anything," Busch said. "I have to change something, I just have to figure out what that is and make it work for me."
Until last Saturday, however, there were more struggles for Busch than successes. Publicly, Busch appeared to be managing his frustrations. But his interactions on the radio with his team painted a different story. Busch, who turns 27 on Wednesday, has always been a bit of a diva over the radio. However, all night long the pressure appeared to mount. Busch made the remark that he was "glad Joe's (radio) button's broke," referencing owner Gibbs.
But Busch remained patient, and when the opportunity arose to make his move, he was in position to pounce -- and earn his 24th Sprint Cup win.
"We feel like we've definitely had some ups and downs," Busch said. "We're not out there leading all the laps and running upfront. We definitely feel like we haven't run to the competitiveness that we want to."
But Busch's post-win cry of "We back!" signified a turning point for the No. 18 team and the first time Busch has been in the Chase Zone since the second race of the season in February at Phoenix.
For Busch the owner, the ability to relinquish control by placing another driver behind the wheel -- and not just any driver, but his brother Kurt -- took a lot of humility. Trusting another driver to complete the task was difficult for a racer who has accumulated 105 wins among the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck series.
Over the past three years, however, KBM has been a drain both financially and on Busch's time. He never realized the level of challenge that faced him, particularly given the success of the teams Busch had raced for in the past.
Busch quickly found out how true it is that money buys speed. Despite the level of talent he recruited to run KBM, Busch's "one engineer to 15" ratio, which he used to compare his shop against the factory teams, is a clear example of what the smaller teams are up against. And it made KBM's Nationwide victory Friday night that much sweeter.
"It's way harder to win as an owner, for sure," said Kyle Busch, who pulled off the feat in just the team's seventh start. "I'm standing there on the pit wall, and I've got no control over what's going on. I'm ready to come on the radio with Kurt and tell him what all he needs to be doing."
And he did.
"He told me what to do driving at like lap 40," Kurt Busch said. "And I was like, 'Here we go. Here's the owner telling the driver how to drive.'
"He just couldn't believe that we got this car to Victory Lane. You could just feel his hand trembling of, 'I'm an owner. I don't know what to think,' but he knows he could have drove this car today as well."
Indirectly, KBM served a second purpose: bringing the brothers together. The last six months have been the most difficult and uncertain in each of the champions' careers. While Kyle held on to his Cup ride after his incident in Texas, Kurt's future was in question after parting ways with Penske Racing at the end of 2011. Kyle did not hesitate to open the door for his sibling.
Unlike some employees, Kyle doesn't have to worry about Kurt blowing smoke up his posterior. Kurt's not shy when it comes to voicing his opinion. And if there were two racers in the garage with an intimate understanding of what makes the other tick, it would be the Busch brothers.
"It's that love that you have as a family member; and I've driven for guys like (Roger) Penske and guys like (Jack) Roush, but when you're driving for a guy named Busch, you've got to be on it," Kurt Busch said.
While Kyle Busch admits that Saturday's win was "more fun," Friday's victory was more rewarding. For Busch, winning had always been easy. Yet pouring himself into KBM the past three years and then being forced to pass more of the responsibilities over to others, Busch has learned valuable lessons about himself.
"I'm trying to build and make (it) successful, and it's got my name on it, so we're doing the best we can with the people we have and with what we're doing there," Busch said. "It's just a matter of working through the pitfalls sometimes and working through the challenges that lie ahead. To see all of that come together for not only myself but (wife) Samantha and (general manager) Rick Ren and all the people that pour their heart and soul into that place, it's pretty special.
"I haven't spent a lot of time there, honestly, this year, not as much as I'd like to, maybe. Been in (Sprint Cup crew chief) Dave's (Rogers) office a lot. I know where my priorities lie. It's just cool to see KBM get its first win, hopefully first of many. Joe hopes not. But it'll be fun. It's a fun little rivalry we've got going on for now."