LAS VEGAS — Any time the NASCAR Cup Series ventures west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Busch brothers quickly jump to the top of peoples’ minds as potential favorites for the win.
It’s not a bad assumption, considering Kyle and Kurt Busch grew up in Sin City and cut their teeth racing at the three-eighths-mile Bullring across the street from LVMS.
However, the record books say otherwise.
Between them, the two Busch brothers have one victory at Las Vegas’ 1.5-mile oval, earned by Kyle in 2009. Kurt Busch, despite 21 prior tries, has never won at his home track.
That’s a statistic the 42-year-old is desperate to change during Sunday’s South Point 400.
The elder Busch hopes to end his Las Vegas losing streak with a victory in the No. 1 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing, and if he could do so, he’d also punch his ticket into the Round of 8 in the playoffs.
“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years, with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Kurt Busch told reporters ahead of the event. “The teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, Vegas is a track that I just have had trouble with. There are a few tracks, like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle.
“Vegas is just one of the tracks I haven’t always been able to figure out. Hopefully, we can change that this weekend.”
While Busch enters the second round of the postseason as the lowest-seeded driver — sitting 12th of 12 in the standings – he believes his team and race cars are capable of overcoming that deficit.
“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far, compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the layoffs. So, I look back at Darlington as a pretty solid result. We had one really good pit stop and one bad one mixed together, and that’s where we fell back to eighth place,” recalled Busch. “I feel like our lap times at Richmond were solid, but we were on a pit strategy from our engineering crew. And from our data that said we should go this route, it took us from running sixth all the way back to 13th, even though we led some laps. So, that was a big mistake on losing points.
“At Bristol, we were running pretty strong. I felt like we were a top-five car and then ended up with a loose wheel. So, we had to battle back. But a lot of other guys had trouble as well at Bristol and that helped up move on to the next round,” Busch added. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas back four. So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect.
“We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega and the ROVAL, and if we do that, it should help us advance.”
One of the biggest differences is that, unlike the February race in Las Vegas, fans will not be permitted to attend this time around due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That has Kurt Busch slightly disappointed, but still eager to finally notch a home victory.
“With Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself, and I would love to win there through the spirit of the camera and everyone watching on NBC Sports,” he said. “I know the fans there, locally, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers. So, that’s where I would connect and, hopefully, enjoy it through the TV side of it.
“We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race again.”
The second round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs commences Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.