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In 2004, Kurt Busch became NASCAR’s first Chase champion. He was extraordinarily fortunate. One reason he won it was because the Ford Busch drove for Jack Roush that year had on it the smartest tire in the sport’s history.

The right-front tire flew off at the only place where his title hopes could be preserved. On the 93rd of 267 laps in the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it flew off near the entrance of the pits. Busch was able to limp down pit road as the errant tire rolled down the front straight and into turn one, thus producing the caution flag that saved Busch. Greg Biffle won the race, but Busch managed to finish fifth, and fifth was enough to win the title.

Many of the elder Busch brother’s wounds since have been self-inflicted, but since he enjoyed one of the great lucky breaks in the sport’s history, fortune has not often smiled on him. Perhaps a title was worth it.

Not even in the wild early days, when drivers learned their craft hauling moonshine up and down mountain roads with “revenuers” in hot pursuit, did a driver accuse his girlfriend, one Patricia Driscoll, of being a trained assassin.

Now that, if true, was a walk on the wild side.

Then there was the time Busch ran afoul of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s men when he was arrested near the Phoenix track and charged with reckless driving. He and the combustible sheriff, who said, “He can speed on the race track, but he’s not going to speed on the streets of Maricopa County,” later made up, but Roush yanked Busch out of his car and the Roush Racing president at the time, Geoff Smith, famously said, “This is the last straw. We’re officially retiring as Kurt Busch’s apologists.”

Busch made the mistake arrogant men often make in confontations with the authorities.

Apparently you don’t know who the #*$! I am.

That seldom works well. It was in 2005.

People change. They may not grow up, but they learn lessons.

Now Kurt Busch is 40 years old. He and his brother, Kyle, have both won championships. His life has stabilized, but his career has leveled off. He’s moving on to a new ride next year, replacing Jamie McMurray with Chip Ganassi’s Chevrolet team. The man who won the first Chase won his 30th race this year. His brother, who is seven years younger, has won 51.

Ganassi is lucky to have him. Now that Kurt has learned to behave most of the time, he is a polished, mature driver. The last driver who performed up to spec for Ganassi was Sterling Marlin. If Ganassi is ever going to put together a team that really works, it may well be the tandem of Busch and the breathtakingly talented Kyle Larson.

I hope so. I really do. Kurt Busch has always been a good fellow when he’s in his right mind. It’s just that every time it seems like his life has some semblance of normality, well, he has one of those days.