Kurt Busch Wins Playoff’s 1st Round Of 12 NASCAR Las Vegas Race

Jim Fluharty/HHP for Chevy Racing

For the first time in his career, Las Vegas native Kurt Busch added his name to the records books by taking his No. 1 Monster Energy Camaro ZL1 1LE to his hometown’s victory lane in the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The win marks Busch’s first win this season, securing his spot in the Round of Eight of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

With a set of strong late race restarts, Busch’s speed prevailed to give him his 32nd NASCAR Cup Series win. The victory, the sixth triumph for Chevrolet this season, is the Bowtie brand’s eighth win in history at the 1.5-oval and 792nd all-time win in NASCAR’s premier series. Alex Bowman, No. 88 LLUMAR Camaro ZL1 1LE, crossed the finish line in the Silver State’s 400-mile event in fifth, giving Team Chevy two of the top-five finishers.

Matt DiBenedetto (Ford) finished second, Denny Hamlin (Toyota) was third and Martin Truex Jr. (Toyota) was fourth rounding out the top-five finishers of the race. 

The NASCAR Cup Series season continues next weekend at Talladega Superspeedway with the YellaWood 500 on Sunday, October 4th, at 2:00 p.m. ET. Live coverage can be found on NBC, the NBC Sports Gold app, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. 

KURT BUSCH, NO. 1 MONSTER ENERGY CAMARO ZL1 1LE, PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:           THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by tonight’s race winner of the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. We’ll kick it over to media for questions.            Q. I know how bad you’ve wanted to win this race; has it sunk in at all? The celebration out there, that was memorable, but after getting the Daytona 500, I knew this was absolutely tops on your list.KURT BUSCH:  This is 20 years of agony and defeat and now today with triumph, I don’t know if I have any more gas left or if I just filled my tank up to go win every race that I’m going to go race next. This feeling of growing up here and watching the track get built from the desert gravel pit that it was by Richie Clyne and his group and then when Speedway Motorsports came in and bought it, I’m like, man, there’s going to be a Cup race there, I hope I can make my way up through Legend cars. And just all the memories, all the memories of everybody, my mom and dad, every Saturday night, all the commitment they gave me and my little brother to make it in racing.           For me it was a hobby. I never knew I’d get this far. A guy named Craig Keough here locally here in Las Vegas, the owner of the Star Nurseries here in Las Vegas took a chance on me and let me run his late model a few times and we won a couple races and started working our way up.           It takes a village to make somebody cut through and make it, and this is my hometown and I have so many people to thank, and I couldn’t be more proud and I know that they’re very proud right now watching on TV, watching on NBC Sports Network and seeing their hometown boy win at the hometown track.            Q. I knew on normal weekends you would have your friends from Star Nursery, you would have the high school people you grew up with. Is it somewhat bittersweet under the pandemic that that it just wasn’t ‑‑ I mean, I don’t know, it just seems like it would have been a little bit different had there been your hometown crowd there to cheer you on.KURT BUSCH:  They’ve pierced my heart right now. My memory of everybody, I know they’re thinking of me and I know they’re celebrating. They’re enjoying this just as much as I am. And yes, with empty grandstands, that’s tough. The governor couldn’t quite help make the right call to get fans in the grandstands, but everything aside, yes, it’s a bit empty, but my heart is full. I won at my hometown track after 20‑some odd tries.            Q. Take us through those final laps, what was going through your head and the emotion when you were spelling out Las Vegas out there with the checkered flag.KURT BUSCH:  The race unfolded in our favor when we were leading and we were cranking out some great lap times on old tires, and a yellow came out, and I’m like, this is like a huge break, this is like having all your chips in on a roulette number and it came up 1, it came up our number, and we doubled down. We had a good pit stop to hold our track position. We had to battle DiBenedetto on some of those restarts.           I pulled out a few drag racing tricks on him. I used our strengths against his weaknesses, and at the end, to again have 20 years of this track kicking my butt, it did the same thing tonight after lap 200 I’m like, really? Again? I’m going to have to battle, battle, battle maybe to get to 10th and we had no stage points tonight, either. So that yellow was a huge break for us.           And again, thank you to everybody in Las Vegas that helped my career get up and going. There’s so many people here; enjoy it tonight with me.            Q. I guess you’re riding back with Kyle. Brexton took this weekend off. Any extra pressure on you to beat your nephew this weekend?KURT BUSCH:  I wish I could have been there for it but I was trying to stay focused on getting my rest and being ready for today’s race. The pressure was there, and honestly on the plane ride out here, I was telling Samantha, my sister‑in‑law, that life is going to change with Victory Lane. I said, how did he feel, what were his emotions. She said, he was vibrating and that he loved it so much and that he could feel that energy of being a winner. And I just sat there on the plane going, my dad helped me, we helped Kyle, Kyle and my dad and myself are helping Brexton. It definitely felt like a generational shift was happening. But maybe not. Maybe not. This old guy has still got it going on.            Q. Kurt, when you’re going for the win there, is there anything going on in your mind like man, the difference between first and second, a playoff spot versus being on the bubble?KURT BUSCH:  It was going to be a tough pass for anybody to make. That was our ticket to move forward to win, to do the job that I need to do. I mean, it’s like giving a lion a piece of meat. I had it. I was in position, and nobody was going to take it from me. I had to execute on those restarts and then change the draft around, and the 11 was definitely going to have a hard time passing us because he had more to lose than we do.            Q. I was just wondering if you could talk about how important your spotter Tyler Green was for those crucial restarts and what your relationship has been like with Tyler.KURT BUSCH:  Tyler Green is a great spotter, he’s a great kid, and he’s a good racer. He races Legend cars in his spare time, and he actually has the most experience with the choose rule. This is my 21st year, I’ve never done a choose rule before, and so I’ve just gone off of him 100 percent. We’ve been crystal clear, and yes, spotters have to relay information with the restart lanes, with the draft, and where lap times are being produced. But all in all, my crew guys, this Monster Energy Chip Ganassi team, we knew we needed nighttime, and a yellow came out at a perfect opportunity and we had the right setup to be able to hold it wide open at the end to win it.            Q. Knowing that you’re locked into the next round, that’s obviously got to be big, take a lot off your mind for the next two races, but looking forward into the Round of Eight, what does tonight’s run do for you and this team, especially with Kansas and Texas back‑to‑back to start off the next round?KURT BUSCH:  Yeah, it’s a mile‑and‑a‑half win. We last won together at Kentucky on a mile‑and‑a‑half. So if you fast forward to Kansas and Texas, it’s a mile‑and‑a‑half. So everything is just pointing in our direction right now. I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but we will enjoy this. We will celebrate. We need to grab points at Talladega. We need to grab points at the Roval.           We thought we were a top eight team if things went perfectly, but we still need to execute to grab those points in case we’re on the short stick and eliminated after the Martinsville round. All in all, this is a huge breath of fresh air. It’s wind in our sails, and it’s a lifelong dream of mine to win in my hometown.            Q. I know the emotions were pretty high when you got out of the car. Just comparison to your Daytona win; the emotion level, what was it like?KURT BUSCH:  It’s right there underneath Daytona, underneath the championship back in 2004. Any time you win, it’s special. But to do it in front of my hometown crowd and nobody was there and all the people that I see every time I come to Vegas and I get to say thank you and I can’t right now, that’s the hardest part. So this one is easily ramping up to being my third most favorite win ever. Right now it’s my favorite because it’s here, it’s Vegas, and I have so many people to thank. They know they helped me, and they know who they are, and it just all started with mom and dad taking me to the racetrack right here at the Bullring in Las Vegas.            Q. After the race you mentioned the people who have helped you since Vegas, but you got thanks from two people very close to you in Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth. What was it like to get the congratulations from Kyle and Matt after you crossed the start‑finish line?KURT BUSCH:  Again, I’m so grateful, but to have friendships in this garage, and Matt Kenseth and I go back the furthest out of anybody. It’s great to have him as a teammate right now and somebody that created stability for the 42 car, and to run with him and to share notes, it’s the best that we can be right now, with no practice and no normal sequences.           And then with my little brother, our relationship has blossomed this year with being travel buddies and staying in a family bubble together and respecting the COVID process together. And just to share stories and get caught up with things that we never talked about before, and to have him be the first one to give me the congratulatory donut down the back straightaway, it was a flashback of Legend car racing when we were growing up as kids together, and old brother always wins.            Q. It’s safe to say that some people might not have had the No. 1 in the Round of Eight, but this was a team effort tonight. Your spotter did a great job, pit crew did a great job. How much of a statement does this win feel like, a statement to say watch out for the No. 1 car, we’re not going anywhere?KURT BUSCH:  I’ll be honest with you, we needed everything to go perfect in this round to advance to the Round of Eight. You never want to count yourself out as a championship contender, but we knew we needed to work a little harder to keep pace with the 11, to keep pace with the 4. There’s the Penske guys that are strong, and I saw the 4 car tonight struggling, and the 18 was running around me a lot tonight.           You never know when your moment is going to come and the yellow came out at a perfect opportunity for us, and so yes, we’re advanced through to the Round of Eight. I still think it’s important to grab points at Talladega and the Roval. We just don’t have any ill side effects that are going to pop up these next two weeks. So we still need to go out there and put points in our pocket.            Q. What was your thinking in the car as the restarts were happening in those closing laps, heart rate, nightmares? Are you thinking confidence? What was your general mood as you were sitting in the car getting yourself set up for the best chance to win the thing?KURT BUSCH:  I go by this quote that I learned earlier this year reading some books and listening to some speakers. This guy, he said, “So what; now what?” It doesn’t matter what pops up, if it goes against you or if it’s with you, so what, now what, and that makes you clear your mind, makes me clear my mind anyway and make a plan, find a procedure that’s still going to keep us up front and protect that position.            Q. Even with more opportunities to run at Vegas in the future, was there ever a point where you were worried that you might not win at your home track in your career?KURT BUSCH:  I was worried about lap 200 today. I was like, oh, track got me again.           It’s so tough here keeping up with the track’s changing conditions, the speed through 1 and 2 versus the slick part of 3 and 4. We had been notoriously loose all year at mile‑and‑a‑half tracks, and we were loose all night. The run just before this, I said, hey, we’re finally on the tight side, go back. And then you’ve just got to wheel it. You’ve got to give it your best, and we found the right position to be in with the yellow flag and then the restarts.           But I mean, it’s Vegas; you’ve got to put yourself in position for the dice to unfold in your favor or for the cards to flip out. That would be the equivalent of having all of your money in after you’d been wasting money and burning up money all night at the blackjack table, and you go, you know what, one more hand, I’m all in, and then it just flipped over, an ace and a jack suited and it fell perfect.            Q. Matt McCall during these playoffs has run you long during green flag cycles where others have kind of split up stages, and that certainly benefitted you tonight. What is the challenge from a driver’s point of view when you’re running long, the tires are wearing, other people have fresher tires? What kind of demands does that put on you and the things that you’re able to do that allows Matt to make these calls to put you in this position?KURT BUSCH:  You know, that’s the good news and the bad news. We’ve been really good on long runs this year at mile‑and‑a‑halfs, and when we were out front on old tires we were cranking out some of the best laps that we had had all night. Again, it’s like we’re on that alternate strategy, and it’s just got to be law of averages, and it finally unfolded in our favor.            Q. When a driver runs 10th to 15th most of the night, how satisfying is it in your case to win those races?KURT BUSCH:  Oh, this is huge. We struggled early with being loose. We needed nightfall to happen sooner rather than later, and we just kept digging. We kept ourselves as close to the front as we could. Some pit stops were a struggle. I almost missed my pit box one time, and then that clear air at the end, being up front, being the guy that has to deliver for the team, that’s when everything came together for us. So no matter where you are in this game right now of NASCAR Cup Series racing, you’ve got to be there at the end to win it.            Q. Obviously with the next two races coming up in this round, it’ll be Talladega and the Charlotte Roval, races regarded as two really unpredictable elements of the round. Is there any pressure that has been relieved by winning here tonight going into the next two races of the round?KURT BUSCH:  Yeah, the pressure is off. There’s not going to be any consequences the next two weeks. But still, we want to gain points. We want to put some points in our pocket from the stages and the finish at Talladega and the Roval just to build up towards the season end. That’s how we’re going to make it to the Championship 4 is to still keep putting the pressure on, but we know we can slip up, or as Mark Martin said, you can stub your toe every now and then but you’ve just got to learn from it.           Right now we’re in great position. I knew we could make the Championship Eight if everything went perfectly through this round. This just put the icing on the cake way before we could get the cake.            Q. Just want to get your thoughts there 32nd career win, tying fellow past champion Dale Jarrett on the all‑time wins list, what that means to you?KURT BUSCH:  I was just looking at Dale Jarrett on the TV, I was like, I had something in the back of my mind for him; what was it. Yes, it’s a great feeling to be tied up with a Hall of Famer. He’s got more Daytona 500 wins, but we do have a championship together, and that’s cool company. I’ve always looked up to Dale Jarrett with respect; the traditions that he has started in this sport have carried through. His father taught him how to drive, how to be a great broadcaster and commentator, and so to be alongside Dale Jarrett ‑‑ this win at my hometown after two decades of not winning, I don’t know if I have more gas in the tank now to win every race or if I’m done. I’m loving every single minute of this win and what it’s done here in 2020, what it means here in 2020.            Q. When you look two decades from now and somebody brings up this race and you’re talking about it, what are you going to remember most?KURT BUSCH:  It’s being in position, never giving up, and when the opportunity to win comes your way, you have to be that lion and you have to grab that piece of meat and you can’t let go, and you have to continue to protect it when others are coming up with all the other yellows and restarts and drafts and inside lane, outside lane. That’s what I’m going to remember the most, and it’s similar to my win at Kentucky last year against my little brother.            Q. Describe how big of a deal ‑‑ you mentioned about the family, you brought up Brexton. How great is it to know another Busch family member being involved with racing?KURT BUSCH:  It’s a great feeling to see little Brexton already piecing it together and putting it in Victory Lane and having that excitement and that joy of winning. It takes a team effort, and for my dad to be there and my mom, this next generation, it’s amazing.           Watching Samantha, my sister‑in‑law, helping Brexton, it reminds me of my mom when she was there doing everything she could for me. I honestly had a feeling on the plane ride out here today, with his win, it was like, you know, my job is almost done here, I’m starting to become that old guy, got to find the rocking chair because Brexton is taking over. But not so fast. It’s great to be back in Victory Lane.            Q. Speaking of Victory Lane, it’s been also a big week for next season to have Ross Chastain as your teammate. Tell us what kind of an asset he’ll be in the new season.KURT BUSCH:  Yeah, he’s a great addition. Ross Chastain will fit in right away. His style of driving and how he goes about his craft is very similar to how I came up through the ranks with working and working and working. He’s had some tough situations stacked against him with different sponsors and different movement, but he’s just continued to rise above that and to showcase himself as the next talent to Chip Ganassi, and Chip chose him, so I see a lot of similarities, I think he’ll fit in great, and I hope we hit the ground running strong at Daytona next year.            Q. The post‑race cool‑down lap, what did it mean to be celebrating with Kyle at your home track?KURT BUSCH:  What a great feeling, to have him give me the celebratory mandatory door donut down the back straightaway, it was a flash back of legend car racing when we raced against each other as kids, and every time back when we were kids, because I’m seven years older, I would beat him. So that was perfect. It took us right back to memory lane in 20 years. It was perfect, right there on the back straightaway.            Q. Being from Las Vegas it was a bummer hearing the news last week that no fans would be allowed for this race. How much were you wishing those fans would be in attendance losing their minds seeing you win?KURT BUSCH:  It was tragic. Everything I was hearing from different business members in the community, Governor Sisolak said that we were going to have fans, and it just did an about‑face and changed. I know that Chris Powell here as the track president was devastated. The casino industry, the entertainment industry, everybody from restaurants to a friend of mine that runs one of the major helicopter tours here, they’re hurting. This is a process that we all have to get through together, but when you have 80 to 100,000 seats available for social distancing and for everybody to be able to enjoy it and to do it properly, I’m not a politician, but hey, I wish we could have had the fans. I know they saw me in spirit; they were watching it on NBC Sports Network, and my heart is pierced right now from all my great memories of friends, family and just the cool people that helped me become a winner here in Las Vegas.           I’ve got to make a comment. Ron Kantowski, Las Vegas Review Journal, you can finally write a good article about me in Las Vegas. I’m going to be so proud of you tomorrow when I wake up and read the paper. Thank you, Ron.             THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time, and congrats again.

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