Champion's Week preview

Time to exult -- Kurt Busch ready to tackle champion's schedule * Others honored -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers celebrate with Busch It's time for NASCAR's annual Champion's Week festivities in the Big Apple, and Busch, who is enjoying...

Time to exult -- Kurt Busch ready to tackle champion's schedule

* Others honored -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 drivers celebrate with Busch

It's time for NASCAR's annual Champion's Week festivities in the Big Apple, and Busch, who is enjoying his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title, is only the latest champion to be officially crowned in New York. NASCAR has feted its premier-series champion in New York City since 1981, and Busch, who drives for Roush Racing, is following in teammate Matt Kenseth's (No. 17 DeWalt Tools Ford) footsteps; Kenseth celebrated his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title during 2003 Champion's Week.

So it's back to the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel for championship-winning car owner Jack Roush, and its venerable Park Ave., stage is set for Busch. At age 26, Busch represents a season of firsts -- the first season of series sponsorship for Nextel, the first year of the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup," the new method of crowning a champion, and many other new twists on and off the track.

He'll be busy this week with media events, a charity endeavor, appearances on national morning shows, many photo shoots and a visit to a New York fire department training facility. The fourth-year driver from Las Vegas, Nev., will cap his Champion's Week schedule with Friday evening's awards ceremony in the Waldorf's historic Grand Ballroom.

En route, Busch will engage in some traditional NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion activities: Friday afternoon's traditional team photo in front of the Waldorf's main entrance is one such tradition. Another is Thursday morning's photo opportunity in Times Square with the champion's show car at 8:30 a.m. Following that activity, Busch will join NASCAR Chairman Brian France and Nextel's Tim Donahue to open NASDAQ at 9:15 a.m.

Another highlight: On Friday, a group photo of Busch, NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr., NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Bobby Hamilton along with NASCAR's weekly and touring champions will be taken at 11:30 a.m., at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum at Pier 86. All 11 champions will be pictured together against one of Manhattan's landmark vistas.

What's on tap tomorrow for the champion ... Kurt Busch kicks off the 2004 Champion's Week with a Sunday-evening welcome dinner at the Waldorf=Astoria. Early Monday morning, he'll make marquee appearances first on The Today Show, then on Live with Regis and Kelly.

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Top 10 joins celebration ... While this week's focus shines brightest on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion, drivers who finished second- through 10th-place also are honored. Certainly they can savor a bit of history; second-place Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), third-place Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), fourth-place Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford), fifth-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), sixth-place Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet), seventh-place Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge), eighth-place Matt Kenseth, ninth-place Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&Ms Ford) and 10th-place Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) are the participants in the inaugural "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup," and they'll each take their turn on the stage during Friday evening's awards ceremony.

But prior to Friday, the Top 10 will be joined on Thursday by 11th-place driver Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) and Raybestos Rookie of the Year Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) for the traditional Champion's Week press conference.

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.

-nascar-

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