Kurt Busch paused repeatedly, trying to catch his breath and recover from a typically grueling afternoon on a short track.
But Busch also had a victory to celebrate, having held off a charge by Johnny Benson over the last few laps of the Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway yesterday, and that made talking about his day easy.
"Nobody can be hungrier than I am," Busch said following his second career victory. "This is sweet. This is racing with the best of the best.
"It was a great race, a great ride for us."
Busch, 24, scored his first career victory March 24 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Yesterday's win put him in elite company -- he joined Richard Petty, Junior Johnson and Jeff Gordon as the only drivers in Winston Cup history to win more than one race before turning 25.
He had to work for his win yesterday.
Busch seemed in total control when he beat the field out of the pits after a 15.3-second pit stop with 91 laps to go. A breakaway on a restart with 70 laps left seemed only to certify that he would win going away.
But Benson, making his 224th career start and with possibly his best chance at securing his first Winston Cup victory, made it close: Busch won by 0.46 seconds.
"I know how hungry he is," Busch said. "But we're starving, too."
The victory was the seventh for Roush Racing, and a bonus for owner Jack Roush in a remarkable year. He was pulled, unconscious, from a lake in Alabama after he crashed his small plane in April.
"These are all extra days for me," Roush said. "I may have taken myself a little too serious for a while. I'm much more relaxed than I was and just going with it and having a good time."
Busch, who started 36th, took the lead for the first time on the 389th of 500 laps and lost it for only one lap the rest of the way. He ran the last 10 laps with Benson on his bumper, doing anything he could to pass.
"I bumped him once or twice," Benson, a former Roush driver, said. "I didn't want to spin the guy out. I just wanted to get him out of shape, but when I did I just didn't have quite enough to get underneath him."
And Busch had just enough to hang on.
"[Crew chief] Jimmy Fennig radioed and said, '10 to go,' and things were great. Things were running smooth and we were passing lapped cars," Busch said.
"Then I looked up and Johnny B. was there. . . . We did make it a little wide, but that's what you do at a short track when it comes down to who's going to win and who's going to finish second."
Busch, driving a Pontiac, won from deeper in the field than anyone in the history of .526-mile Martinsville Speedway, the series' oldest and shortest track. The previous best was Lee Petty, who won from 24th in 1959.
* BUSCH GRAND NATIONAL: Scott Wimmer held off Ron Hornaday on a restart with seven laps left and won the rain-delayed Sam's Town 250 at Memphis Motorsports Park for his second victory in four races.
Wimmer, who will try to move to Winston Cup next season, led 83 of the 250 laps and passed Hornaday for the final time on the 218th.