Kurt Busch likely will have the best story to tell when NASCAR's finest assemble at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week.
Maybe not the wildest story -- some of those might not be fit for publication, anyway -- but quite likely one of the feel-good stories of the season. When Busch reaches the Brickyard, he'll no longer be a bachelor, as he married Eva Bryan in Virginia this past Thursday during the last off weekend of the Nextel Cup Series season.
With Bryan preferring a summertime wedding, Busch said it was up to the schedule to present them with a time it could happen.
"Everything has happened on this off weekend for us the past three years, so I can't wait to come back to Indianapolis as a married man and see how I race with that wedding ring on," Busch said last week.
The goal had been to get married on a beach by Chesapeake Bay, but those plans were thwarted when environmentalists pointed out that preparations, including construction of a pier and a dock, would have interfered with the natural habitat of tiger beetles, which mate in June and July. So instead of the wedding Bryan had always dreamed of, Busch says she was crying on his shoulder at the news.
Still, Busch had no doubt the wedding would be one for the books.
"We just had to move everything around to the front porch of the house. We'll do everything there," Busch said. "It's going to be just as fantastic. We're still going to do it at sunset. So it still will be the most romantic thing I've ever seen, according to the checkbook."
Busch said holding the wedding late in the day would make for more temperate conditions for the 250 people on hand. But no matter what, he expected everyone to have an enjoyable time.
And this past weekend had special meaning for the couple, who met on a blind date during the summer off week three years ago.
"Last year, which would have been two years into us dating, is when I decided we'd go to Europe for a quick vacation and I proposed to her in Prague," Busch said. "Everything turns right around this off weekend for us. That's just the way the NASCAR schedule is.
"She knew nothing about racing beforehand, and we were set up on a blind date by a friend of hers from high school who also is from Chesapeake. His name is Jeremy Brickhouse. That guy works on my race team. He's actually the spotter. I've grown into the Virginia area. I love going up there and visiting the beach. Her family lives in Chesapeake, and of course Norfolk has a great downtown district. It's a lot of fun in that area."
Having grown up in Las Vegas, Busch was asked why they didn't just get married in one of that town's ubiquitous wedding chapels. Needless to say, that wasn't an option.
Still, if there had been more problems getting the site to work out, maybe they'd have been married in the vicinity of an Elvis impersonator.
"I would say I know how they made those businesses work in Vegas now because a lot of people run there for their second marriages or even when they don't have the money to put it all together," Busch said.
After a brief honeymoon to "a deserted island somewhere," Busch will head to Indy intent on finding a way to race inside the top 10 of the standings. He said winning the Chase in 2004 was more stressful than getting married. Especially since his focus was on racing while Eva helped get things in place for the wedding.
"Right now, it's just a matter of getting this team into position to win races, which will ultimately lead to finishing real well in the points," he said. "We've got the wedding, which is no problem. It's being handled by the wedding planner and Eva. My job is to get the Miller Lite Dodge running faster with [crew chief] Roy McCauley and things we have to do as a team. "
Sitting atop the point standings, Jimmie Johnson was able to relax more than most during the break in the schedule. To say he was looking forward to it would be an understatement.
And although drivers look forward to the break plenty, Johnson knows the crewmen who make the drivers look good on a weekly basis need the break more than anyone.
Especially now that the heat is on both from Mother Nature and from the schedule, which shows just six races left before the Chase for the Nextel Cup begins.
"The crew members don't have some of the luxuries that the drivers do. Those guys work more hours than anyone in our sport, seven days a week, nonstop working," Johnson said. "So it does take a toll. The heat and the things that come with the summer make it even that much harder.
"But it is go time. The way the format is laid out, the season starts off and everybody has a little time to catch their breath and get on their feet. But once everybody gets into this part of the summer, everybody is trying to finish up one championship battle and then getting ready for a second one."
But first, a word from Dale Earnhardt Jr. It would surprise no one if he has some wonderful stories to share with his friends at Indy.
"I've got a couple of appearances to make, and I think they've got [a movie] premiere in L.A. and I'm going out for that. That'll be neat. But on the off weekend, I've got about 15 of my buddies coming into town and we're going to hang out."
Mark Ashenfelter is an associate editor at NASCAR Scene magazine, which has a Web site at www.scenedaily.com.