Vegas native sons have a shot

Mar 2, 2004 4:11 AM

Owensboro, Kentucky has been regarded as a city that produces some of the top race car drivers in America. Among them are the Waltrip Brothers, Green Brothers and Jeremy Mayfield. This weekend Michael Waltrip, Jeff Green, and Mayfield will start in the Sunday’s Nextel Cup race, while David Green will race in the Busch series race on Saturday.

But not to be overshadowed is the hard-charging, driver producing city in the desert, Las Vegas, which has quietly produced three drivers of its own for this week’s Las Vegas 400 race. But unlike the Owensboro gang, Brendan Gaughan, and the brother tandem of Kurt and Kyle Busch, will be getting a chance to run a Nextel Cup race in front of their hometown fans.

"I’m definitely comfortable here," said Kurt Busch, "I love to come here. I mean, it’s home. I saw this place built from the ground up. I grew up racing at the Bullring, which is just on the other side of turn two.

"But while this race ranks right up there in terms of importance, we have a lot of work to do. I haven’t had a lot of luck here, but I love this race track."

Gaughan, a rookie on the circuit, said the chance to race at NASCAR’s top level in his hometown borders on the unbelievable.

"We won the truck race here in September, but driving these cars is totally different," Gaughan said. "The Cup cars are much smoother through the air than the trucks. But being on a track that I have raced on in the Petty School, Winston West and trucks, makes the transition easier. This is a good place for me to get used to these cars."

For the Busch brothers, this will be the first time they have been able to race against each other since 1999 when they raced legend and dwarf cars at the 3/8-mile Bullring.

"At that level we had our legend cars pretty well science’d out and we could run 1-2 most every week, so we had to challenge each other for wins," Kurt Busch said. "Now, within the Nextel Cup ranks, it’s going to be another 41 drivers plus two, so there are many more variables.

"It will be fun," Kurt continued, "Maybe we’ll get a chance to run side by side for a bit and get some pictures out of it."

Kyle is only 18 years old and will be making be attempting his first career Nextel Cup start.

"I didn’t expect to be racing against Kurt so soon, but I’m excited to do it, especially at home," Kyle said. "That is going to be a special weekend for me and my entire family."

With the great weekly racing series NASCAR and Las Vegas Motor Speedway run at the Bullring, it’s a good bet that the number of Cup drivers from Las Vegas will increase over the next few seasons.