Photo: Stewart Haas
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Feb. 27, 2018) – Hunter S. Thompson spoke the quote in the subhead about Las Vegas in 1972.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has raced at Las Vegas Motor Speedway since 1998 and Kurt Busch has raced in 16 events at the track that he watched being built as a youngster. He’s also seen the city get bigger and bigger and more exciting.
Busch grew up in Las Vegas and perhaps no one is more excited that his home racetrack will host a second NASCAR Cup Series race in September.
He has won two poles and scored one top-five finish and four top-10s at the 1.5-mile oval.
Additionally, the 39-year-old driver has led 85 laps, has an average starting position of 9.4, an average finish of 21.8, and has completed 96.9 percent – 4,185 of 4,293 – of the laps he’s contested there.
But he’s never found victory lane at Las Vegas. And it would be a Vegas-style party if he wins it this year.
Think of Dale Earnhardt in 1998 winning the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Or Busch’s boss, Tony Stewart, when he finally won the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2005.
That would be Busch if he could score a victory at Las Vegas.
He and the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing, got a bit of a head start when they tested at Las Vegas in late January. It was the first time he and new crew chief Billy Scott worked together and they seemed to click right away.
In two races in 2018, they’ve led 68 laps, have one top-10 and are a solid eighth in points.
And both Busch and Scott would love nothing better than getting a victory at Las Vegas to lock themselves into the playoffs and give Busch a heartfelt, hometown win.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How important was the test out in Las Vegas in late January?
“I love going back to my hometown and racing. I always like to test in Vegas in the offseason. I think it helps answer a lot of questions going into the season and better prepares you for the race. Normally, that was the first mile-and-a-half track of the year and all of your offseason work showed up at Vegas. And if you have a test session, it moved along that much faster.”
Does coming to Las Vegas give you a “home-field” advantage, and are you excited about two chances to win at Vegas in 2018?
“It never translated to a home-field advantage. I’ve always struggled at Las Vegas. I’ve qualified well but just haven’t raced that well. I’m looking to turn that around. There’s no sense in having the fast laps at the beginning if you can’t back them up at the end. And to get the second weekend, that’s huge for Las Vegas. To kick off the NASCAR playoffs in Las Vegas, it will be hot – be forewarned – and it will be a new, exciting feel for our sport. I’m really happy for the track and the town to have two dates.”
What does it feel like coming back to Las Vegas?
“Vegas is different. It’s our hometown and we grew up racing on that little three-eighth-mile bullring that is in the shadows of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Every time I go out there, it reminds me of all the people who helped Kyle (Busch, brother) and I, especially our dad Tom. But the different Late Model teams, Modified teams, the Legend car races, and all the competitors, the Dwarf car days. It’s just fun to come back and reminisce. But, ultimately, you’ve got to strap on the helmet and focus on the task at hand. It’s always special in Vegas.”
The West Coast swing of races at Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Fontana serves as a pretty good indicator of where a team stands. How important is that slate of races?
“The West Coast swing is a perfect gauge for how your work went through the offseason, whether it’s the wind tunnel, the chassis dyno, new development, and then the team, as far as how the pit crew is performing. Those races on the West Coast swing really can put a stamp on where you are, what needs to be done, and what weaknesses or strengths we have.”
There are a lot of logistics involved in the West Coast swing. What do you do? Do you stay out on the West Coast or do you commute like you would to other NASCAR races?
“I stay on the West Coast. I call in to the team call-ins. Ashley (Busch, wife) likes to drive to the races out West. So, it’s just a nice, old-school road trip, going from Vegas to Phoenix to Los Angeles and making the best of it. We stop at some of the scenic spots – Grand Canyon, there are the beaches out in L.A. So, it’s a fun, cool West Coast trip.”
Of those venues that you mentioned, is there an area of the West Coast that you like to visit – have to visit – when you’re out there?
“My hometown of Las Vegas, going back there to see family, friends, and restaurants. There’s this old-school place where we always used to go get pizza when I was a kid. It was just great to go back to the roots and reminisce. It gets you back to where everything started, going to Vegas.”
Haas Automation Racing Team Report
Round 3 of 36 – Las Vegas 400 – Las Vegas
Car No.: 41 – Haas Automation Ford Fusion
PR Contact: Joe Crowley, True Speed Communication (704) 875-3388 ext. 808 or Joe.Crowley@TrueSpeedCommunication.com)
Primary Team Members:
Driver: Kurt Busch
Hometown: Las Vegas
Crew Chief: Billy Scott
Hometown: Land O’ Lakes, Florida
Car Chief: Tony Cardamore
Hometown: Bristol, Virginia
Engine Builder: Roush-Yates Engines
Headquarters: Mooresville, North Carolina
Engine Specialist: Evan Cupples
Hometown: Hudson, Illinois
Spotter: Tony Raines
Hometown: LaPorte, Indiana
Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
Gas Man: Rick Pigeon
Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont
Front Tire Changer: Shane Pipala
Hometown: Frankfort Square, Illinois
Windshield: Kyle Anderson (also serves as interior mechanic)
Hometown: Jewell, Iowa
Rear Tire Changer: Coleman Dollarhide
Hometown: Hickory, North Carolina
Jackman: Sean Cotten
Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina
Tire Carrier: Dwayne Moore
Hometown: Griffin, Georgia
Road Crew Members:
Truck Driver: Wayne Anderson and Larry Lush
Hometowns: West Covina, California, and Waynesville, North Carolina
Tire Specialist: Nathan McGuire
Hometown: Palmyra, New York
Shock Specialist: Aaron Kuehn
Hometown: Kensington, Connecticut
Engineers: Scott Bingham and William Lee
Hometowns:Lawrenceville, Georgia and Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina
Mechanic: Nick McIntosh
Hometown: Harve, Montana
Mechanic: Joe Zanolini
Hometown: Sybertsville, Pennsylvania
Las Vegas Notes of Interest:
· The Las Vegas 400 will mark Busch’s 615th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 17th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
· Busch has two poles, one top-five finish and four top-10s at the 1.5-mile oval. Additionally, the 39-year-old driver has led 85 laps, has an average starting position of 9.4, an average finish of 21.8, and has completed 96.9 percent (4,185 of 4,293) of the laps he’s contested there.
· Busch has career total totals of 29 wins, 22 poles, 131 top-fives, 259 top-10s and 8,945 laps led in 614 starts.
· His most recent Cup Series win came 38 races ago in the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (Feb. 26, 2017).
· His last Cup Series pole came five races ago at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (Nov. 3, 2017).
· In 1998, Busch accepted a job working the graveyard shift for the Las Vegas Valley Water District, where he fixed water main breaks and serviced fire hydrants and service lines. Busch took a 12-month leave of absence in 2000 to pursue his NASCAR dreams driving in the Camping World Truck Series for Roush Racing. He called his former employer 11 months later to inform him he had accepted a NASCAR Cup Series contract at Roush and would not be returning to the Las Vegas Valley Water District.
· Back Where it Started – Kurt Busch, a native of Las Vegas, grew up approximately 20 miles from Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He graduated near the top of his class from Durango High School in 1996. He began his career racing go-karts in Las Vegas when he was 7, transitioned to Hobby Stocks in 1996 and, by year’s end, captured the track championship at Las Vegas Speedway Park. He racked up numerous wins and championships and eventually caught the eye of successful NASCAR team owner Jack Roush, who decided to host driver auditions for a team he fielded in the Truck Series. Busch was invited to participate and, in a pivotal moment in his life, he won the audition and started competing for Roush in 2000. Less than a year after hiring him to race in the Truck Series, Roush announced that Busch would be promoted to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Barely a year removed from running Late Models on the Featherlite Southwest Tour, Busch was racing the No. 97 Ford in NASCAR’s elite division.
· Busch has led laps in seven of his 16 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Las Vegas for a combined total of 85 laps led. He led 40 laps in March 2005 en route to a third-place finish – his best finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
· Busch has two poles (2010, 2016) at Las Vegas. Busch has 22 career NASCAR Cup Series poles.
· Busch has made one NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Las Vegas. He started and finished fourth in 2010.