• 64°

Busch Brothers headlining NASCAR’s West Coast swing

By Jenna Fryer

AP Auto Racing Writer

CHARLOTTE (AP) — The Busch Brothers lead NASCAR into its three-race West Coast swing coming off another set of accomplishments that have established them among the all-time greats of the sport.

The Las Vegas natives return home as two of the headliners of NASCAR’s young season.

Kyle Busch on Thursday finalized a multi-year contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing to drive the No. 18 Toyota.  This was a contract year for Busch but he locked up his new deal and avoided free agency. Last week, he made his 500th career Cup Series start — a sixth-place finish at Atlanta, where he drove from the back of the field in a backup car — and he set the Truck Series all-time win mark with his 52nd victory.

Kurt Busch, meanwhile, celebrated his 650th career Cup start with a surprising third-place finish at Atlanta. He moved this year to Chip Ganassi Racing, a team that has struggled to consistently run up front, and Chevrolet has lagged behind its NASCAR rivals since it debuted the Camaro last season.

Enter Kurt Busch, considered a throwback in that his sense and feel of a car can sometimes help engineers diagnose deficiencies. He prides himself in his knowledge and understanding of cars, rarities among many of his peers who simply drive and don’t crunch the numbers.

“Each and every week you want to have a shot at it and Ganassi and Chevrolet, everybody knows we’ve got to push hard and we can’t expect anything to happen just off of good vibes or good feelings,” Busch said. “We have to go and apply all of the knowledge we can.”

The race Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be the first with NASCAR’s entire new competition package. A lesser version of the new rules debuted last weekend at Atlanta and did improve — albeit slightly — the on-track product.

Las Vegas is expected to be the first true test of NASCAR’s plan to create closer, tighter racing. NASCAR has reduced both horsepower and downforce, and many believe it will create pack racing at Las Vegas. The new rules and the many unknowns regarding the racing this season have dominated conversation, but there have been other storylines.

Earlier this week, Kyle Larson accused Hendrick Motorsports of gaming NASCAR’s inspection system. He basically accused Hendrick, his engine supplier at Ganassi, of cheating and then walked it back later that night on Twitter.

“I feel terrible about it,” he wrote. “I meant it jokingly, but shouldn’t have implied they are anything but a strong competitor that gets better as the season goes on.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has aggravated half the field through two races with his aggressive driving, and series champions Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. are among those who have taken verbal shots at Stenhouse. He was not backing down.

“I feel like I do everything that I have to do to make sure our car stays in the front,” he said.

One element of the new rules package is that smaller teams may be able to close the gap on NASCAR’s powerhouses; Chris Buescher of JTG-Daugherty Racing led the charge at Atlanta with a ninth-place finish. Ryan Preece, his rookie teammate, had a great Daytona 500 debut and a solid run last week until he crashed on pit road.

Daniel Suarez scored his first top-10 finish last week since he moved this season to Stewart-Haas Racing, and that team had a remarkable rebound from the Daytona 500. All four of its drivers crashed late at Daytona but all four finished in the top 10 at Atlanta.

Now SHR goes to Las Vegas, where Kevin Harvick last year won the second race of his three-race streak.

Still, it will Kyle Busch with the opportunity to leave Las Vegas as the biggest winner. He entered all three NASCAR national series races, and has won in each series at Las Vegas but never all in one weekend. His only Cup win was in 2009, his second season driving for Gibbs.

From 1999 to 2001, Kyle Busch won more than 65 races and two championships in Legends cars at Las Vegas’ Bullring. He later added 10 victories in late model stock cars at the Bullring in 2001.

“Vegas always means a little bit more pressure, more pressure on myself, just because it’s the hometown and you want to win there,” he said. “I love Vegas, the atmosphere and everything going on around that place.”

___

More AP NASCAR coverage: https://apnews.com/NASCAR and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Comments

Business

Weak jobs report spurs questions about big fed spending

News

Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting in Elizabeth City

Sports

Woodland, two others share lead; Mickelson plays much worse but will still be around for weekend at Quail Hollow

Business

Former NHL player to open mobster themed bar in Raleigh

Nation/World

California population declines for first time

News

GOP leaders differ on bottom line for state spending

News

Police: Man killed in shootout with officers in Winston-Salem

Crime

Man charged after thieves rob would-be gun buyers of wallets, shoes

Crime

Blotter: Four added to sheriff’s most wanted list

High School

High school football: Some anxious moments, but Hornets win state title

Local

Photos: Salisbury High Hornets win big in 2AA championship game

Local

County manager outlines projections for the upcoming fiscal year budget, suggests uses for stimulus money

Business

Miami-based Browns Athletic Apparel opens second screen printing location in Salisbury

News

At funeral, fallen Watauga deputies remembered as ‘heroes’

Coronavirus

COVID-19 cluster identified at Granite Quarry Elementary

Coronavirus

More than half of North Carolinians have now taken at least one vaccine shot

Local

City hopes to cover expenses in 2021-22 budget with surplus revenue generated this year

Local

Fallen tree proves to be a blessing for local nonprofit Happy Roots

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Health department drops quarantine time from 14 to 10 days

Crime

Blotter: More than $100,000 in property reported stolen from Old Beatty Ford Road site

Local

City fights invasive beetles by injecting trees with insecticide

Local

City names downtown recipients for federal Parks Service grant

China Grove

China Grove Town Council weighs 2021-22 budget priorities, supports buying body cameras