He’s Just a Hometown Boy, Born a Rolling Stone
MOORESVILLE, N.C., (March 6, 2012) – “Who says you can’t go home, there’s only one place they call me one of their own, just a hometown boy, born a rolling stone….who says you can’t go home.”
The immortal words sung by Jon Bon Jovi in the 2006 hit “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” ring true for Kurt Busch as he returns to his hometown of Las Vegas, where he will compete in this weekend’s Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. While the 1.5-mile Las Vegas track didn’t exist when Busch was growing up in the Entertainment Capital of the World, the race is one of the few opportunities for the hometown boy to compete in his proverbial “backyard.” When that hometown boy’s backyard is a destination location like Las Vegas, a packed schedule is always part of the deal.
Through the course of the week, Busch will sign autographs, make sponsor appearances and visit with friends and family – all while getting ready for 400 miles of racing. Busch enters this weekend’s event having scored one top-five and three top-10 finishes in 11 starts at Las Vegas. Although he has yet to win in his hometown, he has come close.
Busch led laps and was contending for the win during the track’s 2002 race when he lost a cylinder in the engine with less than 30 laps to go. He was able to stay on the lead lap and limped home to a 20th-place finish. Three years later at Las Vegas, Busch started fifth and led 40 of 267 laps before settling for a third-place finish. As recent as last season, Busch started 29th and led a lap before spinning out and still bounced back to score a ninth-place finish.
While Busch has yet to score a win in his hometown, he certainly has put his best foot forward when it comes to qualifying at Las Vegas. Aside from winning the pole in 2010, Busch has started outside of the top-10 only one time – in the 2011 race where he started 29th. The result is an average starting position of 6.7.
Although racetrack activity always represents a significant portion of Busch’s schedule, he’ll fill out a good portion of this week fulfilling sponsor and team commitments, all while trying to add to the “million miles of memories” he has of his hometown.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services/TAG Heuer Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing:
How special is it to race in Las Vegas?
“It’s my hometown and all of the people who have helped me through the years in racing are there. So it’s always a nice homecoming, and then you have to put the hometown adrenaline aside and get focused to make the car work for 400 miles of racing.”
What are your thoughts on the track?
“It’s a tough track. I’ve only scored one top-five finish there and, since they’ve repaved it, I have struggled a little bit getting those solid finishes. I actually thought we could win the race in 2002, which is the year Sterling (Marlin) won. We were right there and then we ended up losing a cylinder with 30 laps to go. Then, other times, we’ve been off the lead lap because of either a wreck or an engine-related issue. In 2011, I spun out and still came back to finish ninth. It’s just a place that can jump up and bite you quickly.”
What is the toughest part of racing at Las Vegas?
“I’d have to say getting the car to handle in turns three and four is the hardest part. The way the track is situated, the sun really bares down on turns three and four and the tendency is for that to make those particular turns pretty slick. Turns one and two are in the shade for the biggest part of the race. So your car may be handling really well in turns one and two and then you can end up sliding in three and four, so it’s a challenge to find a nice balance between the two ends of the track.”
Does this always end up being a busy weekend for you?
“It really does, and I’ve always said I wish the Las Vegas race happened a little bit later in the year. It’s a weekend I always look forward to because it is home. I’ll be spending a few days this week just kind of catching up, but then there are sponsor appearances, team appearances, a sponsor golf outing – and that’s all before we even get to the racetrack. It’s a busy time but it’s a fun time.”
What was it like growing up in Las Vegas?
“The first thing you do when you get your license is you head to the strip. I piled six, seven or eight guys in my Volkswagen Bug and we’d just go down to the strip and loiter. That’s just what you do when you grow up in Vegas.”
You are a big sports fan and UNLV is the hometown basketball team playing in its conference tournament this week. Talk about going to the games when you were growing up in Las Vegas.
“It was a pretty cool time growing up and having the Runnin’ Rebels experience with ‘Tark the Shark’ (former coach Jerry Tarkanian) and the big names we had back in the early ’90s, like Larry Johnson and Greg Anthony. It was such a unique atmosphere to think that our little college could complete on the national level with schools like of North Carolina and Duke. It was an exciting time as a kid. I was 12 years old and you’re really impressionable at that age. So that was a pretty memorable time.”