When Kurt Busch pulled on to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday night for his Coca-Cola 600 qualifying lap, he was the 23rd driver to make an attempt.
And when the flat black No. 78 Furniture Row Racing car crossed the start-finish line to complete Busch's lap, something remarkable happened: The crowd burst into thunderous applause.
Busch had just knocked Jimmie Johnson off the provisional pole for NASCAR's longest race, and the crowd loved it. Ultimately, Denny Hamlin went on to win the pole, relegating Busch to the second starting spot.
The point had been made -- the No. 78 was bad fast, something Busch reinforced when he was second in both practices on Saturday, and Busch had newfound popularity.
It has been quite a reversal of fortune for Busch, who unquestionably will be one of the favorites to win Sunday night at CMS.
A year ago, Busch was struggling with the low-budget Phoenix Racing team, a plucky but underfunded team with only a fraction of the resources ...