Gracious Busch accepts his awards

After a crazy week of television appearances and functions, inaugural NEXTEL Cup series champion Kurt Busch finally got to collect his check. Busch was awarded 5.36 million dollars for his efforts in 2004, which led him to his first Cup championship.

Nextel Cup champion Kurt Busch poses with girlfriend Eva Brayan.
Photo by Autostock.
"I couldn't believe everything that was happening, the TV shows, the dinners, the fans," Busch said. "I didn't think it would ever end. Now, I don't want it to end. It's just been amazing."

In addition to the prize money, Busch also received the Tiffany & Company-made NEXTEL Cup and a champion's ring. With the points fund money added in, Busch's winnings for the year now exceed $9 million.

"It's truly mind-boggling," he said. "The money is something you don't even think about as you're racing for a championship and trying to keep your head above water and just do the best job you can for yourself, your team and the series."

Busch was gracious and thankful as he made special note of his relationship with crew chief Jimmy Fennig and car owner Jack Roush.

"It's been a fantastic year," Busch said. "We dodged a lot of bullets and I'm just so happy to be able to give Jack his second straight championship and Jimmy his first one. I owe those guys so much."

The rest of the NASCAR Top Ten that competed in the Chase for the Championship also graced the stage to collect checks for at least $1 million. Even the ailing Jeff Gordon, who had been hospitalized for the flu earlier in the week, made it to the Waldorf Astoria Grand Ballroom to thank the France family and NEXTEL for another outstanding season.

Gordon made note in his speech that under the old points system he would have won his fifth championship title.

"Don't worry," said Gordon. "I will get over it. Someday."