Kurt Busch is in such a good mood these days, knowing he has a quality ride for next year, he can let himself not worry about sitting seventh in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship, with only a longshot title chance.
If he can put himself in contention, fine.
If he doesn't, well, he and Furniture Row Racing are further along than they ever thought they'd be.
Best of the rest would be more than prize enough.
"I just see the top five guys, the ones who have continually posted the solid results this year with wins and top-five finishes, starting to spread themselves out," he said last week. "For some reason, this whole year, sixth through 20th have felt about the same. Those top five have separated themselves all year long.
"For us, trying to get to sixth is a legitimate goal. We're only one point behind that. At the end of the day, if we can define ourselves as the first team that didn't finish in the top five, I would say that was a very successful season."
For Busch, the success has come not only from making Furniture Row the first one-car organization in the Chase, it is from getting himself back into a premier garage. He'll drive for Stewart-Haas Racing next year in that team's fourth car, joining Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick.
"To take a step back to take two steps forward, that really has been the definition of the last couple of years," said Busch, whose abrasive temper eventually got him kicked out of his ride at Penske Racing, where he won the first title under the Chase format in 2004.
He said at least it got him in touch with his roots.
"This team and this sequence that I raced the last couple years is how racers would have to break in, in their 30s, start with a lower-funded team and work their way up," he said. "So it's been a fun last couple of years."
Busch, who starts 30th in today's Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway, hasn't given up on the title, of course. And he gets to show a lighter side Oct. 31 with his "Busch-Wacked" mud run at Texas Motor Speedway, site of the Nov. 3 Sprint Cup race, to benefit the Armed Forces Foundation and Speedway Children's Charities. Busch, other drivers and NASCAR officials race each other on an obstacle course.
Nothing like getting a little mud on you to put you in the mood before a race, Busch figures.
"It's not too long, and it's not too clean," he said. "We're out there getting dirty."
Then next year, he can get a clean start on the next part of his career.
Almirola on pole: Tampa's Aric Almirola will start on the pole for today's Camping World 500 after qualifying was rained out. The field was set by fastest times in practice, where Almirola ran a lap of 202 mph, edging Jeff Burton (201.987).