Kurt Busch has accomplished just about everything a NASCAR driver dreams of in their career, winning both a Cup Series championship and Daytona 500. However, the one thing that had eluded Busch over two decades was a win at his home track of Las Vegas.
Well, after a bit of luck from cautions and multiple strong restarts late in the Las Vegas playoff race, Busch can finally say he's a winner in the desert. He celebrated by spelling out the letters to Las Vegas with the checkered flag and wore the excitement on his sleeve. Busch said directly after the race that the win is ramping up to be a top three finish in his career.
CBS Sports caught up with the 42-year-old champion to discuss his hometown win as well as a variety of other topics ranging from retirement to his relationship with brother Kyle Busch. Here is that conversation below.
CBS Sports: You were partying and drinking champagne in a helicopter after your race win at Las Vegas. How was your night out on the town?
Busch: "I'll tell you the adrenaline took over and we had a great night in Vegas. I met up with some friends down at the South Point. Brendan Gaughan hooked us up with a nice roped off area. We had some beers and some good laughs and stories but I'm definitely in my 40s. It's harder to run all night in Vegas. It was a good celebration but back to work."
CBS Sports: You finally won at your home track Las Vegas for the first time in your career. However, it was somewhat bittersweet in that there were no fans there. What impact did it have on the meaning of this race for you to do it without the fans there?
Busch: "It was definitely the bittersweet part of it. To have empty grandstands and to not feel the energy from the crowd and to be there celebrating with them but to me I felt it through the TV lens and everybody watching through our television partners. That's where you feel everybody's spirit right now. It's been an odd 2020 but at the end of the day we all have to practice safe protocols and the governor didn't want to have race fans there where some states do, some states don't so it's really weird but all in all everybody is tuned in and listening in. Sports still must go on."
CBS Sports: You said after the race that you felt agony and defeat over the past 20 years of not winning at Las Vegas. What's the most special thing about this win in particular?
Busch: "The most special thing was all the restarts at the end. I felt like I had to do my job to outperform and trick the other guys that I was competing against and it was like a football player where he gets the ball and wants to run with it. The team put me in good position and I had to pull off all the different styles of restarts to stay on top and bring home the trophy."
CBS Sports: On one of the restarts, it appeared like you said on that radio that you had a flat. Obviously things come in muffled on the radio. Do you recall that?
Busch: "It was 'I have a plan,' I have a plan is what I said on the radio where people just thought I said that I have a flat. I was just announcing right away with confidence that I was in the zone and I got a plan. Don't worry about it people."
CBS Sports: You are now two wins away from a second-career title. All you have to do is win in the Round of 8 and then the championship race at Phoenix. Do you think now with a title being that much closer your team is going to be able to find the necessary speed each week to get you that second title?
Busch: "Yeah I still feel like we have a task in front of us and by no means are we a championship favorite but we're a contender. We're in this right now and we're advanced to the Round of 8 and in that round we have a couple mile-and-a-half tracks and that's been our strong suit at Chip Ganassi Racing. We won at Kentucky last year, we won at Vegas now and I'm looking forward to those two mile-and-a-half tracks to capitalize on winning there and getting our ticket to the dance out in Phoenix. We know we gotta run stronger out in Phoenix if we want to win this championship."
CBS Sports: In previous interviews you said you're planning to race next season. Has getting a win at your home track changed that at all?
Busch: "No this hasn't changed anything. It feels like the gas tank is full. To win and to be on top right now, of course there's all these great emotions but it hasn't changed any of the course. I'm having fun with Ganassi and Monster Energy, Chevrolet, so 2021 is already under contract and we'll go from there."
CBS Sports: You mentioned 2021, what are the odds -- you're a Vegas guy -- what are the odds that maybe that becomes the final season in NASCAR and you have a swan song like Jimmie Johnson is trying to have right now?
Busch: "I'll give it 50-50. I've been at this game a long time. I've been out there 21 years and my wife is a great supporter of mine and she loves the racing but it's been a bunch of years out on the road and out on the circuit and we'll see what 2022 brings us when we get there."
CBS Sports: Jimmie Johnson is joining your team, Chip Ganassi Racing, on the IndyCar side after he retires from NASCAR to run some events. You've been spending some time in the broadcast booth lately. Is that where your career is headed after NASCAR, TV?
Busch: "I feel like it's just one of the cards in the deck right now. Whether it's driver-mentor coaching, being part of a race team still, TV, other bucket list races around the world, you name it. I think I've got a great sponsor with Monster Energy and we don't know what's around the next corner yet."
CBS Sports: Perhaps you could join the Superstar Racing Experience which airs on CBS next summer. They're going to be racing at all sorts of different tracks which leads to the next question. Lots of buzz around the 2021 NASCAR schedule. What is a track you'd like to see on there before you retire?
Busch: "I'd love to see NASCAR on a street course somewhere. Long Beach comes to mind first but IndyCar probably wants to protect that date. I just saw Nashville announced a street course for IndyCar so that would be something if I had a magic wand that I would wave it on the schedule."
CBS Sports: You've said that COVID-19 made your relationship with your little brother Kyle Busch stronger. Recently after races he's been showing his frustration. He said he'd be eliminated in the next round after Bristol, then sparred with fans on Twitter after your win at Las Vegas. As an older brother who has seen it all, do you ever talk to him about that sort of stuff?
Busch: "Yeah we're always talking and the feel of the racecar is something that we've always prided ourselves in and with no practice this year, that's been the toughest part is still trying to find that feel and drive around with what the engineering staff and the crew has arrived at for the setup. It's just a different feel. It's a different style right now and it's been tough for both of us to adapt to this sequence of no practice."
CBS Sports: Do you believe Kyle is going to be able to find a win in the playoffs?
Busch: "Yeah he's got as good a shot as any in the next few weeks. He's really strong at Kansas. I wouldn't be surprised if he's able to drive into Victory Lane here shortly."
CBS Sports: Getting into the NASCAR Silly Season, Ross Chastain was just announced as the driver of the No. 42 with your team, Chip Ganassi Racing. How excited are you for him to be joining the team?
Busch: "He's a great kid and a very deserving driver to be in this position. He's worked his tail off to get to this point and he reminds me a lot of myself in my younger years in how hard it was in my younger years to break through and his tenacity on the racetrack where he doesn't take no for an answer and he's always running up front. That's what you've gotta do to get noticed and recognized so I am looking forward to the camaraderie with a young kid like him next year."
CBS Sports: Some other guys without rides for next year are Erik Jones and Kyle Larson. The top ride available is Jimmie Johnson's 48. Do you think either of those guys will fill that ride?
Busch: "I think they're both great candidates. Jones is a winner in the Cup Series and he deserves a good ride but I don't know what Rick Hendrick or Jeff Gordon have in store for that 48 right now. That's the biggest mystery out there but Larson definitely knows he made a mistake. He's very remorseful for it and sorry. He's a great candidate as well."
CBS Sports: Do you believe Larson will wind up in a top ride in NASCAR next season?
Busch: "Yeah if he's not in a top-tier ride next year, he'll eventually get back to that point. I think that's the drive that Larson has. He's got that champion spirit. I see him at a top tier ride. If it's not next year, it'll be in the future."
CBS Sports: Last Silly Season question for you. Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan purchased a team to make Bubba Wallace the driver. What do you make of that whole situation?
Busch: "I think it's great. The timing of it is perfect. It makes sense all the way around. With a big brand name like Michael Jordan coming into NASCAR it's huge and with him and his Carolina roots he's always been around the community and this is just another gear that he's grabbing for himself as an owner and the management. So I think it will be a successful adventure. Denny doesn't do anything halfway, neither does Michael Jordan and Bubba wants to go to that next step."
CBS Sports: How fast do you believe the Jordan-Hamlin-Wallace team will be able to compete, as someone who has been in the garage for so long?
Busch: "It depends. I think they'll win in their second year. It'd be tough to win in that first year but that's the process of developing a program. The Furniture Row guys proved that you can do it as an independent team. It's out there. The template is out there. You just gotta plug in the puzzle pieces."
Busch and the rest of the Cup Series drivers will be back on the track to start continue the Round of 12 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, October 4. The green flag is set to fly shortly after 2 p.m. ET.