Kyle Busch was disappointed Friday after he qualified fifth for today's Sprint Cup race, especially considering he started on the pole at his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway the past two years.
But that did not deter him from spending a few hours afterward with more than 100 kids he doesn't know.
Petulant and brash behind the wheel, Busch was the winner of 20 NASCAR races last year, including the Las Vegas
Sprint Cup race, with a hard-charging style that makes him unpopular with most fans and many drivers.
If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the most popular driver in the Sprint Cup series, Kyle Busch is the most reviled.
But don't tell that to the kids at Boys Town Nevada.
Despite his busy schedule during a rare visit back home, the 24-year-old Busch did more than cater dinner for Boys Town residents Friday night. He arranged for most of the youths to attend the races and kicked in cash to pay for transportation and food at the speedway, site of today's Shelby American race.
The bigger investment was the couple of hours he hung out with them.
"It's amazing that he's concerned not only with racing, but with making a difference in the lives of less fortunate youth," said Tom Waite, Boys Town Nevada executive director.
Busch shows the same concern for kids in four other cities on the NASCAR circuit.
That doesn't sound much like the guy who reached into a rival's car to say a few choice words while competing at the LVMS Bullring as a teenager.
Or the guy who said NASCAR-mandated changes in cars "suck." And that was moments after he won the race at Bristol, Tenn., in March 2007.
Or the guy who won a Nationwide Series race last year at Nashville, Tenn., was presented a custom-painted Gibson electric guitar and smashed it on the pavement in Victory Lane so he could share pieces with his crew. He thought it would be funny. Few others saw the humor.
That's the Kyle Busch fans know from his race-day, TV persona.
The side of him that others know -- the side he's not interested in promoting -- is the one that, through his Kyle Busch Foundation, has provided Christmas presents, clothes and financial support to needy children nationwide.
Though Busch still has moments of pique on the track, most NASCAR observers will concede the Durango High School graduate has grown up plenty.
Those close to him say a big factor in his maturity has been Samantha Sarcinella, his fiancee. They plan to marry this year.
"Other than being very easy on the eyes, Samantha is everything and anything a guy could ask for," said Busch, who proposed to her Feb. 4 at Daytona International Speedway on their first night in a new $2 million motor home they designed.
"It's frustrating when you have bad days on the track, but when I come back here with our puppies and Samantha, it brings me back to reality about life and what really is important," he said outside the motor home a few hours before the start of the Feb. 21 Auto Club 500 in Fontana, Calif.
"It reminds me there are way more important things out there in the world than what happens in a race ... like the men and women in the military fighting for us. They're in a lot worse situations than I could ever be in by finishing second."
One of Busch's assistants said he has noticed a calmer Kyle since he began dating Sarcinella two years ago.
And it hasn't hurt that she graduated from Purdue University two years ago with a degree in psychology. Sarcinella, 23, is close to earning her master's.
"He comes into the motor home (after a race) and watches a part of the race he needs to, then after 20 minutes he's ready for dinner," she said. "He just needs a couple minutes to cool down and think about what happened in the race. He's not a crybaby like some people say."
What few other than family and friends know about Kyle Busch is his commitment to orphaned and needy children, and a heartfelt appreciation for fans who support him.
Even today, when he's introduced before the Shelby American, there are certain to be some boos. It doesn't matter that he's from here.
But fans seem to be warming to the NASCAR firebrand.
"Our ratio (cheers to boos) is getting better. I've heard it's better to hear any noise than no noise at all," Sarcinella said. "It's part of the show.
"I feel like they're booing Kyle the character, not Kyle the person, so I don't take it to heart," she said in Fontana, where Busch won the Nationwide race Saturday and finished sixth the next day in the Cup race.
"It's hard to hear people boo him because I know the other Kyle, the true Kyle. Kyle the nice guy, the funny guy."
Funny guy? Nice guy?
Those descriptions are blasphemy to his detractors, many who dislike Busch for the same reason so many boo four-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. That is, they win too often.
Petulant, pretentious, presumptuous. More common descriptions could be hotheaded, arrogant and reckless, at least by those who see Busch from afar or only on TV.
"We get labeled for what people see on TV, and it's not the whole picture," said Tony Stewart, Busch's former teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing and another driver known to shoot from the lip.
One veteran NASCAR team publicist who commented on the condition of anonymity said, "Kyle and his brother (Kurt Busch) are two of the nicest guys out here. But they are totally different when they put their helmets on. That's why I love to watch 'em race. They get after it."
Two hours before the Fontana race, Busch showed the side that Sarcinella and friends say is the real Kyle.
His first stop was to meet about 100 customers of Interstate Batteries, one of his major Cup sponsors. He put them at ease with charm and humor before taking 20 minutes to autograph hats, shirts, jackets and model cars for men, women and children.
Moments after leaving the tent, he called an audible.
"Stop over there at that barbecue," he directed Steve Carter, his motor home and cart driver since 2005.
Busch wasn't looking for a sandwich. He spotted a group huddled around a hot grill on the dreary morning. A man in his 40s wore a souvenir jacket sporting the colors of M&Ms, another of Busch's sponsors.
"What's up, guys?" he asked the shocked fans, who weren't expecting a private audience with their favorite driver.
"I like doing this," he said of the impromptu meet-and-greet. "It's just a way to thank them for supporting me. It's fun to make their day. I don't think he knew who I was at first.
"I usually try to find a kid."
Fans and media have chided Busch for walking away from some postrace interviews after a disappointing run. For Kyle Busch, that's any race he doesn't win.
"This is entertainment to race fans, but this is how we make our livelihood," Stewart said. "There's so much emotion wrapped up in it that it's hard not to show that emotion. ... Have a bad day, then there's a reason to be upset."
For every 100 fans who boo and go home upset when Kyle Busch stands triumphant in Victory Lane, there's a needy youngster at Boys Town Nevada who's cheering along with him.
Take a guess which ones mean the most to Kyle Busch.
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0247.