Las Vegas: Kurt Busch preview

WIN IN SUNDAY'S 400-MILER AT VEGAS WOULD BE SPECIAL FOR BUSCH -Miller Lite Dodge Driver & Las Vegas Native Kurt Busch Rates Win In Vegas Race As Third Most Prestigious- LAS VEGAS (March 7, 2006) -- It is highly doubtful that any NASCAR ...

WIN IN SUNDAY'S 400-MILER AT VEGAS WOULD BE SPECIAL FOR BUSCH

-Miller Lite Dodge Driver & Las Vegas Native Kurt Busch Rates Win In Vegas Race As Third Most Prestigious-

LAS VEGAS (March 7, 2006) -- It is highly doubtful that any NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competitor wants to win Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as much as Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch. It is almost certain that Busch's value of such a win exceeds that of all the other drivers.

"You could say that I have a race win scale that's based on what I feel is the level of prestige associated with a particular victory," said the 27-year-old Las Vegas native. "It's a given that the Daytona 500 is our biggest race -- it's NASCAR's 'Super Bowl,' that's for sure. You'd have to put Indy and the Brickyard (400) as second on that list, just because of the incredible history the facility hosting the race has.

"In my mind and on my personal scale, I have to put a Vegas win as next -- as the third most prestigious on the list," Busch continued. "There are a lot of big races out there. You can't deny that the Coke 600 is big...really big. A win at Darlington is certainly special from an historical angle. And, man, what about the August night race at Bristol?

"I know that I'm pretty biased when it comes to racing in Vegas and I think most people can understand that. They may not agree with it or appreciate it that much, but they can understand how I feel."

A review of Busch's near meteoric rise to the top of his game perhaps offers some insight into his feelings.

Only 12 years ago, the 15-year-old Busch could be found driving a Dwarf Car owned by his father on the high-banked quarter-mile Pahrump Valley Speedway, located a 60-mile drive out Nevada Highway 160 from Las Vegas.

Then, it was over to The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where Busch claimed the 1996 NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Hobby Stock championship, among three of the titles he won at the three-eighths-mile asphalt oval.

After a year at the University of Arizona, Busch was back racing full time on the NASCAR Southwest Tour for the Las Vegas-based team owned by local businessman Craig Keough.

After winning that series' rookie title in 1998 and the points championship a year later, he signed on with Roush Racing for 2000. After a year in NASCAR Craftsman Truck competition, Busch became a fixture on the NEXTEL Cup tour in 2001. Five seasons later, he has enjoyed a flourishing career that has produced 14 race wins and the 2004 points title.

"One of the projects that I was deeply involved in back during the off season was a big effort in getting my historical photos, the various newspaper clippings organized...trying to get the archives in order," said Busch. "There's this one photo that I have which is one of my favorites...if not my very favorite.

"I'm posing by my old Hobby Stock car at The Bullring. The angle of this photo makes the background very prominent. In the background, you can see all the big cranes at work and Las Vegas Motor Speedway being built. That photo really is a neat representation of my career. I think it depicts what has happened about as well as possible. When I was growing up and racing in Vegas, I just looked at it as something my dad and I could do together and really enjoy spending that time with each other. That photo will always be super special to me.

"You know, if I was to win Vegas, oh man, I'd come unglued," Busch concluded. "It's my big race. A lot of people like coming here, doing the race and the city in one huge weekend with so much going on. It's my hometown. I used to haul (rear) through that desert parking lot before the big track even existed after a race at the local short track. You know...I saw it built from the ground up. With the track being completely redesigned after this race, it'd be extra special to win this weekend. I want to win at all the tracks and hopefully I'll be around long enough to win at most of them. But, Vegas is No. 1 on my hit list right now."

So, what are Busch's chances this weekend of adding LVMS to the list of 10 tracks where he has already claimed a victory?

"If desire had anything to do with it, it would be a done deal," offered crew chief Roy McCauley. "Nobody wants to win at Las Vegas this weekend as much as Kurt does.

"You could certainly feel how much a win would mean to him during our test there several weeks back. He was really on the throttle for the entire time we were there. We were top-five material throughout the sessions and we got in several 30-lap runs. I'm looking for us to be very competitive this weekend at Vegas."

Busch, McCauley & team will be racing their PRS-096 chassis this weekend at Las Vegas. It is a 2004 model Miller Lite Dodge and is the same car the team used in the test back on Jan. 31-Feb. 1.

Busch's career record at LVMS boasts one top-five finish and two top-10s in five races. He has never qualified lower than ninth and his 4.8 starting average leads all drivers with more than two starts on the track.

His best LVMS finish to date, a third, came in last year's visit to the 1.5-mile track. He led two times for 40 laps and came back from a late-race pit miscue that saw him relegated to the 24th spot with 70 laps remaining.

"We had to pit a second time under the yellow there late in the race last year due to some loose lugnuts on the left front," Busch recalled. "We were able to rally pretty hard there in the remaining laps and it was really neat to be up there racing with my little brother (Kyle), who finished right in front of me."

-pr-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kurt Busch