Monday, March 2, 2009

Hometown Hero Kyle Busch Earns Starring Role In Las Vegas

By Jerry Bonkowski
The Sports Xchange

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Kyle Busch complained Friday about the drivers chosen to appear in TV commercials promoting the annual Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"It's always guys like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and (Kyle's older brother) Kurt," the younger Busch brother lamented. "I guess I need to win a race before I can be part of the Vegas commercial.

"Maybe one of these days we can win one and get on the commercial. That'd be cool."

The Las Vegas native not only all but guaranteed he'll be added to the cast in next year's commercial blitz, he's now a cinch to be the star, hands down.

For while Earnhardt, Kahne and Kurt Busch are all big draws, none has what Kyle has now: a Sin City win in Sunday's Shelby 427.

To win on his home track, in front of a sellout crowd of more than 140,000 -- including many family members, friends and acquaintances he grew up with in Las Vegas -- was unquestionably the biggest victory in the young 23-year-old's still budding racing career.

"Me and my brother watched this thing be built from the ground up," Kyle Busch said of LVMS. "I didn't know if I'd ever win here, but this is pretty cool. This is pretty awesome, pretty special."

In the whole big scheme of things, a win in Vegas is just one of 36 on the Sprint Cup schedule. But Busch now knows why former teammate Tony Stewart was always so determined to win on his own home race track, the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- where Stewart has now won twice in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard (2005 and 2007).

"This is probably as big as the Daytona 500," Busch said. "I said it wasn't going to be, but it is. This is the feeling of a lifetime."

Sunday's win also was both a humbling and a boastful experience.

On the one hand, it finally broke the jinx that had vexed Busch and the No. 18 team since his last win last August in Watkins Glen, N.Y.

That win was supposed to help propel the team toward the Sprint Cup championship. Instead, Busch and the rest of his posse ended the year with their tails between their legs, finishing a disappointing 10th in the standings.

But on the other hand, Sunday's win proved not only that Busch and Co. are indeed finally back; it could be the same type of starting off point to mirror -- or even improve upon -- the eight wins he earned last season.

Everyone on the team can brag and boast now. Ironically, Kyle didn't do either of those, although he initially got credit for one particularly humorous incident.

As Busch passed both Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer with 18 laps left, a national TV audience heard three words come over Busch's team radio that won't long be forgotten: "Say goodnight, Gracie," the famous tag line used by late comedian George Burns to wife Gracie Allen.

At first, the comment practically stunned those folks watching at home. What chutzpah, what cockiness, what arrogance Busch has, is what some likely said.

The only problem is, we didn't find out until after the race that it wasn't Kyle who said those words at all. Rather, it was spotter and business manager Jeff Dickerson who was the source of that infamous quip.

"He's a funny guy, one in a million or trillion or gazillion," Busch said of Dickerson. "I heard that, and I was like, 'What is that, from (the movie) 'Miss Congeniality?' I didn't care what it meant. I was just like, here you go."

And even though there were two more cautions, it was clear that Busch was not going to be denied, no matter what. Even with two additional restarts, he did what he typically does: He ran away from the field each time. He was a man on a mission and was bound and determined to complete that mission.

"It didn't surprise me," Burton said. "He was coming and he was coming hard. They had the fastest car today and they deserved to win."

The win boosts Busch 12 spots in the standings. He heads to next weekend's race in Atlanta in sixth position, 12 points ahead of brother Kurt and 66 points behind new series leader Jeff Gordon.

What makes Busch's achievement even more unique is not only that he won Sunday's race, but more so how he won it. In NASCAR's record books, he'll go down as starting from the pole, having earned the top spot in Friday's qualifying.

But in reality, because his car used a different motor in qualifying than the one that blew up earlier that afternoon in practice, Busch was relegated to start Sunday's race from the back of the 43-car field.

In essence, he went from the front to the back and then to the front again to win.

"I don't know where I get credited for winning this thing, whether it's from the back or from the pole," Busch said. "Either way, we conquered both of them, that's for sure."

During pre-race introductions, Busch grabbed a microphone and told the fans in the stands, "We're going to the back, so get ready for a show."

You can call Busch everything from overly confident to cocky to even arrogant, but you have to admire him. In a city where entertainers and multi-million dollar productions try to outdo each other, the hometown boy put on a show in true Vegas fashion -- a one-in-a-million performance in front of a sold-out house.


  1. Jerry,the live chat was fun today.Love the Kyle story,happy to see him win on his home track.Keep up the great work.

    Michigan fan

  2. You should coin a nickname for Kyle that sticks.Great story


  3. Imagine that... a week after another low attended event in California, Las Vegas SELLS OUT!!!

    Me thinks it's about time for NASCAR to really think about giving the banquet 'back to the fans' and move it from NYC to Las Vegas... Seems Vegas proved this weekend that What Happens In Vegas, is DEFINITELY better than what happens in New York!

    Read the entire plan at my blog by clicking on my name!

  4. While not a huge Kyle fan, I cracked up at the "Say Goodnight, Gracie" comment. Very interesting to find out KB didn't say it. Still, very funny...and a great summary of how his day panned out. I know it was special to him.

  5. Great article Jerry, I really hate to admit this but it looks like a great showman is emerging unlike anyone we have ever seen in NASCAR before !


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