Taking Manhattan -- Kurt Busch leads Victory Lap procession, Top 10 press conference

* Friday sneak preview -- Busch to participate in champions' photo, attend awards ceremony

NEW YORK (Dec. 2, 2004) -- Nothing says New York City like the hustle, bustle and color of Times Square, and on Tuesday, NASCAR introduced the roar of stock-car engines to Broadway.

Kicking off Thursday's very busy schedule, 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Kurt Busch (No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Tools Ford) began his morning with a traditional photo session at Times Square's Military Island. Backed by his IRWIN Tools show car, he and crew chief Jimmy Fennig were joined by team owner Jack Roush for a shot against the Times Square milieu. He also received proclamations for NASCAR Day in New York from the offices of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Gov. George Pataki.

Next, Busch and other Top 10 drivers Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Tools Ford), Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford), Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet), Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) and Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&Ms Ford) joined NASCAR Chief Operating Officer George Pyne, Nextel CEO Tim Donahue, New York City Sports Commissioner Kenneth Podziba and President and CEO of the Trump Organization, Donald Trump to open the trading day at NASDAQ.

The group then moved outside to Broadway, where Busch and the other Top 10 drivers climbed into their show cars -- Busch into his Sharpie show car -- and awaited a very familiar command. This time, the words, "Gentlemen, start your engines!" came from Trump, a New York icon, and the show-car procession, led by a pace car, roared away from the curb for a quick cross-town drive to NASCAR's New York office on Park Ave.

Once there, Busch and the Top 10 drivers visited with employees before heading several blocks south to Cipriani, the restaurant site of the traditional Thursday press conference. Along with Busch, Top 10 drivers and NASCAR and Nextel executives, other participants included NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr., NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Bobby Hamilton and NASCAR's weekly and touring series champions.

And Busch wasn't done: Still to come were a special photo with girlfriend Eva Bryan in front of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, an autograph session at the nearby NBC Experience at Rockefeller Center and a special visit to New York's Ronald McDonald House to visit with children undergoing cancer therapy who are staying there, and their families.

What's on tap tomorrow for the champion ... Friday is the big day for Kurt Busch, who will begin it with a special breakfast and end it as the newly-crowned 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion. In between, he'll pose for myriad photos. His first stop will be the Myers Brothers Breakfast, the traditional Friday-morning gathering that honors annual contingency award winners; breakfast begins at 8:30 a.m. ET at the Waldorf=Astoria's historic Starlight Roof. Here's the rest of Busch's Friday schedule:

At 11 a.m. ET, Busch will join NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr., NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Bobby Hamilton and all of NASCAR's weekly and touring series champions for a group photo at the Intrepid Sea-Air Space Museum at Manhattan's Pier 86. The champions will be photographed against the city skyline.

Later Friday morning, Busch will participate in a rehearsal for the evening's award ceremony.

At 3:45 p.m., attired in tuxedos, Busch, Jimmy Fennig, Jack Roush and the No. 97 team will be photographed with their show car and a Nextel show car at the Waldorf=Astoria's Park Ave. entrance. Following the show-car photos, Busch will participate in indoor photo sessions with Nextel executives and family and team members.

At approximately 5:30 p.m. ET, Busch will receive a traditional small gold replica of his No. 97 car from Goodyear. He'll attend the France family reception from 6-6:30 p.m., then make his red-carpet arrival -- actually a black, gold-trimmed carpet in honor of Nextel -- in the Silver Corridor outside the Waldorf=Astoria's Grand Ballroom.

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series awards ceremony begins at 7 p.m. and will end at approximately 11 p.m. Busch will end his day -- and celebrate his title -- at the traditional champion's party, which begins 30 minutes following the end of the awards ceremony.

Fast Facts

What: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Awards Ceremony

Where: Grand Ballroom, Waldorf=Astoria Hotel, New York City.
When: 7-10:30 p.m. (ET). Friday, Dec. 3.

TV: TNT, 9 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Kurt Busch 6,506. 2. Jimmie Johnson 6,498. 3. Jeff Gordon 6,490. 4. Mark Martin 6,399. 5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 6,368. 6. Tony Stewart 6,326. 7. Ryan Newman 6,180. 8. Matt Kenseth 6,069. 9. Elliott Sadler 6,024. 10. Jeremy Mayfield 6,000.

11th-place driver: Jamie McMurray.

Raybestos Rookie of the Year: Kasey Kahne.

Special Guest: Comedian Jay Mohr, host of NBC's "Last Comic Standing."

Musical Entertainment: Scott Stapp, former lead singer of Creed, and R&B vocalist Brian McKnight.