Preseason Thunder test at Las Vegas notes 2003-01-28

Busch concludes his NASCAR Preseason Thunder test at Las Vegas; would cherish a victory in front of the hometown crowd in March. LAS VEGAS (Jan. 28, 2003) -- Kurt Busch, the 24-year-old Las Vegas native who is part of the "Young Guns" brigade,...

Busch concludes his NASCAR Preseason Thunder test at Las Vegas; would cherish a victory in front of the hometown crowd in March.

LAS VEGAS (Jan. 28, 2003) -- Kurt Busch, the 24-year-old Las Vegas native who is part of the "Young Guns" brigade, spent the past two days testing during the western swing of NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and already is anticipating the NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at the venue in March.

Busch (No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford) relishes the thought of performing in front of his hometown crowd for the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 on March 2, with a triumph ranking high among his personal accomplishments that multiplied during a breakout 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup season. He is coming off a stellar year in which he recorded the first four wins of his career en route to a career-best third-place finish in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship.

"This (Las Vegas) would probably be the biggest win," said Busch, whose first win came at Bristol in the spring and was followed by victories at Martinsville (fall), Atlanta (fall) and Homestead. "On my scale of things, Daytona (500) and Indy (Brickyard 400) rank right along with Vegas and this would be the most important race for me to win (this) year. I'll be around for many years -- if we don't do it this spring, I won't be disappointed but we'll surely give it our best effort."

Busch has made two NASCAR Winston Cup starts at Las Vegas, the first coming in 2001 when he started ninth and finished 11th. Last season, he qualified third and had a top-five car before it developed electrical problems that dropped him from fourth to a final result of 20th in the final 30 laps.

"I haven't finished in the top 10 here yet so that's obviously the first goal, but we've surely run in the top five both times we've been here," Busch said.

Busch completed a strong two-day NASCAR Preseason Thunder test session Tuesday in preparation for the Las Vegas race, which is the third event of the upcoming season. He was fifth fastest Monday with an unofficial top lap of 165.899 miles per hour on the 1.5-mile oval and improved against a larger field of NASCAR Winston Cup drivers on Tuesday. He was third fastest overall with a morning-session lap of 167.681 mph.

Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) and Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet) closed out an impressive two-day session, finishing 1-2, respectively with the top unofficial laps both days. Johnson's top lap Tuesday was 168.666 mph while Gordon's was 168.010. Rounding out the top five were Steve Park (No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet) at 167.053 mph and reigning NASCAR Winston Cup champ Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) at 165.776 mph. Stanton Barrett Jr. (No. 60 OdoBan Ford) paced the NASCAR Busch Series drivers with a top unofficial lap of 163.527 mph.

NEWS OF NOTE

* Viva Las Vegas ... All of the 117,000 permanent seats are sold out for the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400, set for Sunday, March 2 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "We're well ahead of the pace from any of the previous five years," said Chris Powell, LVMS president and general manager. "It's a testament to the strength of NASCAR racing as well as the excellent overall experience that people enjoy when they come to Las Vegas for a major motorsports event. Fans have bought more than 120,000 tickets already, and that's encouraging in the face of a difficult economy. Additionally, we're confident of setting an attendance mark for the Sam's Town 300 NASCAR Busch Series event on Saturday, March 1." The record of 81,000 was set last year and more than 80,000 already are expected for this year's Sam's Town 300, virtually assuring a new mark being established for the NASCAR Busch Series event at LVMS. While the permanent grandstand is sold out, race fans still have opportunities to purchase tickets for this year's race. A few Suite Deal tickets remain as well as the speedway's Triple Play package, an $88 ticket that affords fans three races for the price of one. For more information, call the speedway's ticket office at 1-800-644-4444 or log on to www.lvms.com.

* Ready, set, action ... Television partner TNT spent Tuesday morning prior to the test session shooting its "tease campaign" for the upcoming NASCAR Winston Cup Series season with four-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet), 2000 series champion Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Kurt Busch (No. 97 Rubbermaid Ford) and Jerry Nadeau (No. 01 U.S. Army Pontiac). The tease had the group walking side-by-side with the illusion of heat coming off the pit road and another with a giant American flag behind them. The campaign will kick off in May, run through late June and be featured during the NBA playoff telecasts. The "tease campaign" will lead into "The Drama is Coming" promos for TNT race broadcasts that begin July 20 with the New England 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.

* Etc. ... Greg Biffle (No. 16 Grainger Ford), the 2002 NASCAR Busch Series champion who moves to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series this season with Roush Racing, was involved in a minor incident in the morning session. Biffle had a tire go down, forcing him to hit the wall going into Turns 3 and 4. He was uninjured. ... Biffle said that the team plans to use a backup car from teammate Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford) for the Daytona 500 rather than one of their cars following a poor test session during NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona earlier this month. ... The final group of drivers will arrive Wednesday to begin their two-day session at NASCAR Preseason Thunder's western swing. Those scheduled to arrive are Jimmy Spencer, Kenny Wallace, Tony Raines, Brandon Ash, Ted Musgrave, Ashton Lewis Jr., Stacy Compton, Geoffrey Bodine and Eddie McKean.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Steve Park , Geoffrey Bodine , Kenny Wallace , Greg Biffle , Jerry Nadeau , Kurt Busch , Stacy Compton , Ted Musgrave , Tony Raines , Jimmie Johnson , Stanton Barrett , Eddie McKean , Brandon Ash
Teams Hendrick Motorsports