The voice of legendary sports broadcaster Brent Musburger can be heard saying, “You are looking live at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the 2018 NASCAR playoffs are set to begin.”\
Musburger, who is now a Las Vegas resident, used his trademark opening line “You are looking live” before countless professional football games. But there was always added emphasis if it was before an NFL playoff game. And before he would introduce his broadcasting partners Irv Cross, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder and Phyllis George, Musburger would always highlight key players.
And if he was working Sunday’s opening race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Las Vegas, Musburger would highlight Kurt Busch, who is a Las Vegas native and would love to win the opening race of 2018 postseason.
Busch has won two poles and scored one top-five finish and four top-10s at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas oval. Additionally, the 40-year-old driver has led 85 laps, has an average starting position of 9.1, an average finish of 22.5, and has completed 95.2 percent – 4,341 of 4,560 – of the laps he’s contested there.
But he’s never found victory lane at his hometown track. And it would be a Vegas-style party if he wins it this year.
Think of Dale Earnhardt in 1998 winning the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Or Busch’s boss, Tony Stewart, when he finally won the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2005.
That would be Busch if he could be victorious at Las Vegas, especially with it being the opening race of the playoffs for the first time.
He and the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing have had a great season thus far, winning one race, scoring 17 top-10 finishes and entering the playoffs tied for sixth in points.
And both Busch and his crew chief Billy Scott would love nothing better than getting a victory at Las Vegas to start the playoffs in the best way possible, and giving Busch a heartfelt, hometown win.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Thoughts on the playoffs?
“We have to stick with our strengths and that is consistency. We’ve qualified well all year. We’ve had good pit strategy and we just have to make sure we don’t make any mistakes that hurt us and we lose a lot of track position. So, right now, it’s the playoffs and we’ll just work our way through and advance through the rounds.”
Are you worried about the “Big Three” of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.?
“They’ll be strong. You can never count them out. There’s a group of us that’s from fourth to I’d say 16th. I mean, everybody that’s in the playoffs has a chance, but those big three have bonus points that will help them advance.”
What track are you most comfortable about in the first round?
“My hometown Vegas has been tough on me over the years. The roval (at Charlotte) is going be terribly exciting (laughing). We’re going to go with Richmond. I think Richmond is our strongest track in that first round. We have the best driver rating there from the spring race. We just didn’t execute to finish the race, so we’ll see how it all plays out. That first round is all new tracks for the first round.”
Does racing in Las Vegas give you a “home-field” advantage, and are you excited about two chances to win at Vegas in 2018?
“It never translated to a home-field advantage. I’ve always struggled at Las Vegas. I’ve qualified well but just haven’t raced that well. I’m looking to turn that around. There’s no sense in having the fast laps at the beginning if you can’t back them up at the end. And to get the second weekend, that’s huge for Las Vegas. To kick off the NASCAR playoffs in Las Vegas, it will be hot – be forewarned – and it will be a new, exciting feel for our sport. I’m really happy for the track and the town to have two dates.”
What does it feel like coming back to Las Vegas?
“Vegas is different. It’s our hometown and we grew up racing on that little three-eighth-mile bullring that is in the shadows of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Every time I go out there, it reminds me of all the people who helped Kyle (Busch, brother) and I, especially our dad Tom. But the different Late Model teams, Modified teams, the Legend car races, and all the competitors, the Dwarf car days. It’s just fun to come back and reminisce. But, ultimately, you’ve got to strap on the helmet and focus on the task at hand. It’s always special in Vegas.”
Of those venues that you mentioned, is there an area out West that you like to visit – have to visit – when you’re out there?
“My hometown of Las Vegas, going back there to see family, friends, and restaurants. There’s this old-school place where we always used to go get pizza when I was a kid. It was just great to go back to the roots and reminisce. It gets you back to where everything started, going to Vegas.”