Busch calls Las Vegas home

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2002

ATLANTA -- You can ask Kurt Busch about his surprising third-place position in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings.

You can ask him about his chances of winning Sunday's UAW-Daimler Chry sler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

You can even ask him how well he's adjusted to his new crew chief, Jimmy Fennig.

Just don't ask him where to find the hottest slot machines on the strip, the best blackjack table or the cheapest buffet.

The 23-year-old driver might be from Las Vegas, but that doesn't mean he knows everything the town has to offer.

''Everybody wants to know where the hot spots are at or where to go to do this or where to cheat the slot machines,'' Busch said.

''You pretty much tune that stuff out when you live there, and you're not on the strip all the time like you are when you're a tourist. There is a town outside of Las Vegas, and it's got a great school system (for which his mother works), and it's a great place to grow up. Everything is new there, and it just seems like a well-rounded community that doesn't have anything out of the ordinary except for that gaming strip.''

That gaming strip will benefit from 140,000 race fans this weekend. Most will be staying in hotels on Las Vegas Boulevard. Busch will be at home, eating a home-cooked meal and seeing family.

He will see the trophies he won while racing go-karts and late models in the Las Vegas area. He will remember why he gave up youth baseball for the chance, no matter how remote, to make a living at full throttle.

''When I was going through junior high and getting ready for high school, I was going to try out for the baseball team my freshman year, but my dad and I went and got a race car chassis, and that's when I started racing,'' he said. ''I had a go-kart since I was five, and I just kind of drove it around the cul-de-sac. I led the life of a normal, ordinary kid.

''I really got hooked after my dad brought that chassis home. We built it and took it from the ground up. He showed me everything about it and then from then on, we were in the shop every night after school was over and I had finished my homework. I think I wanted to be a race car driver the year I won my first late model race. I remember winning my first late model race and hearing the crowd roar and cheer. The adrenaline rush of beating the best of the best in Las Vegas, that was when I knew what I wanted to do.''

His rookie season a year ago failed to produce a top-10 finish.

But a fourth-place finish at the Daytona 500 and a 12th last week at Rockingham, N.C., has Busch in third place in the points race, just 35 behind leader Sterling Marlin.

RULES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN: Matt Kenseth added his name to the growing list of drivers who won a race with an illegal car, when he pulled into Victory Lane at Rockingham, N.C., on Sunday with a car that was too low.

NASCAR fined crew chief Robbie Rei ser $30,000 but allowed the win to stand.

Cars are required to be at least 51 inches tall, and Kenseth's came up a quarter-inch short.

''There are a number of things that could have come into play, including the ride height having been affected by a jack bolt that worked itself loose, by roof damage that I'm not certain wasn't caused by something during the race or in Victory Lane,'' said car owner Jack Roush.

A year ago Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the EA Sports 500 at the Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, and Joe Nemechek won the Busch Series race at Talladega in 2000. Both had cars that were too low, and both were allowed to keep their wins after paying a fine.

The $30,000 fine for Kenseth's team still allowed for a $127,400 payday.

PIT STOPS: Andy Petree withdrew the No. 33 Chevrolet from Sunday's race at Las Vegas. The car owner said the time would be better spent trying to sign a sponsor for the rest of the season. Dover Downs International Speedway changed its name to Dover International Speedway.

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