It’s well known that Kurt Busch is a massive Chicago Cubs fan. Despite growing up in Las Vegas, he caught many Chicago Cubs games on WGN-TV in the 1980s and 1990s.
He has connections to Chicago as his parents were born in the metro area and his grandfather lived in downtown Chicago. And his grandfather was a huge Cubs fan.
In 1984, when Busch was just 6 years old, the late Steve Goodman wrote the famous song, “Go Cubs Go,” which is played at Wrigley Field after Cubs victories.
Busch is hoping he can play “Go Kurt Go,” as he hopes to win his first-ever Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. He has two top-five finishes and nine top-10s in 17 races at the 1.5-mile oval just southwest of Chicago, but he’s yet to find victory lane.
Busch’s best finish at Chicagoland came in 2015, when he came home third. He overcame a flat tire on lap 86 and a green-flag pit stop that put him a lap down to still contend for the win. However, a late-race caution took away what appeared to be a sure win and an automatic advance into the next round of the playoffs for Busch and the No. 41 team.
The prospects for a career-best Chicagoland finish this weekend for Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), look good as he’s been fast on 1.5-mile ovals this season.
His average starting positon on the intermediate tracks has been 7.0, including a pole at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. He’s qualified in the top-eight in four of five races at 1.5-mile ovals.
Busch has also finished in the top-eight in four of the five races at 1.5-mile ovals.
While he may not be singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on lap 200 of Sunday’s 267-lap race, Busch is hoping that, in the words of the late Cubs broadcasters Harry Carey and Jack Brickhouse, he hears either “Busch Wins!” or “Hey Hey!” once the checkered flag falls.
And then his fans can launch into a heartfelt rendition of “Go Kurt Go.”
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You have a lot of connections to Chicago. Talk about that.
“Both my mom and dad were born in the Chicagoland area. My grandfather lived downtown and was a big Chicago Cubs fan. I remember growing up and going to his house and seeing all of his Cubs stuff. And then in Vegas, where I grew up, we had WGN-TV and it was cool to be connected to the Cubs at an early age. I still have aunts and uncles in the Chicago area. The Busches moved out to Vegas in the early ’70’s. And that’s where Kyle and I were born and raised.”
Do you look at Chicago as another hometown race?
“It’s fun just with my affinity for Chicago. I love the town, the Chicago Cubs, the Bears. Over the years, I’ve met a lot of good people throughout the Illinois area. It does feel like a second home.”
The 1.5-mile ovals all look the same but are completely different. How is Chicagoland?
“They’re all very different. It’s all about the asphalt and grip level. It’d be very interesting to get to choose what sets of tires we all wanted to race on for grip levels. Chicago is very similar to Homestead and it’s similar to Atlanta that we run earlier in the year. Very worn-out mile-and-a-half that chews up tires, and you have to be nice to your tires.”
What have your previous races at Chicago been like for you?
“Chicago is a fast, mile-and-a-half track I have always enjoyed racing on since I started racing there in my rookie season. The track isn’t as smooth as it used to be – it has some bumps in it – but it’s a place I like. It’s another one of those tracks, though, where I just haven’t had the best of luck. An example is the 2002 race. We had a really fast car for that race but, for some reason after the last pit stop, the car just wasn’t handling the same as it had been. We were just way too tight and really couldn’t figure out why. When we got back to the shop and started going over the car, we realized that the radiator pan had come off and that’s like 100 pounds of front downforce. We were going so fast that the car bottomed out and dragged the radiator pan out. It’s just weird stuff like that.”