Never mind that Kurt Busch has three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories at New Hampshire – and none at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Busch, a Las Vegas native, was delighted with the Wednesday announcement that Las Vegas would get a second date in NASCAR’s top series –along with accompanying Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races.
The second Las Vegas event, to be held on a yet-to-be-determined date in September starting in 2018, replaces the fall race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff. Busch’s enthusiasm for the additional Las Vegas date was tempered only slightly by the absence of New Hampshire in the playoff.
After all, the most recent of Busch’s victories at the Magic Mile came in 2008.
“That’s big, to have Trucks on Friday, Xfinity on Saturday, Monster Energy Cup Series on Sunday,” Busch said in advance of Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “That’s big. And then it’s a playoff atmosphere in September. It will be a little warm, but we’ll see how that plays out, but the way this city continues to grow around sports… there’s an NHL team that’s now here, the Raiders continue to flirt with coming down here. With the way that this town evolves, you see it as a win-win with the entertainment side and the sporting side.
“To lose a date at New Hampshire, I think that will really push the New Englanders out hard for their July race, and there will be much more support around their race then. I haven’t won there in many years, so I’m OK with winning three times early in my career. I haven’t won there as of late, so it doesn’t matter.”
The way Busch sees it, the addition of a fall race at Las Vegas also will amplify the importance of the spring event.
“Wherever the date is, you have to be ready for it, and now when you have a springtime race at a track such as Phoenix, Martinsville, Texas – Vegas now fits in this category. All those races are that much more important in the spring because they are playoff races in the fall (at the same tracks).”
Harvick Takes It To The Hoop? No, Says Mutombo
Other than representing Mobil 1 in television commercials and in their respective professions, NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick and former NBA center Dikembe Mutombo have very little in common.
At an announcement on Thursday at the MGM Grand that official NASCAR partner Mobil 1 would serve as primary sponsor on each of Stewart-Haas Racing’s four cars for one race this season – including Harvick’s No. 4 Ford this weekend at Las Vegas – the 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion joked that the 7-foot-2 Mutombo would have to use a roof hatch to get into a race car.
Mutombo conceded that NASCAR drivers are well-conditioned athletes, but he drew the line at a theoretical one-on-one basketball game against the driver.
“It’s just better for him to sign the ball,” Mutombo said, as Harvick put his autograph on a rack of basketballs. “That’s as close as he’s going to get to the basket.”
Mutombo then wagged his finger.
“He would try to let one go, but he’s going to get the finger, ‘No, no, no—not today,’” Mutombo quipped.
Not that Harvick wanted any part of a close encounter on the basketball court.
“The same thing goes for (him) driving the car,” Harvick retorted. “I don’t have anything to say. He should beat me very bad at basketball.”
Shell/Pennzoil Assumes Entitlement Of Las Vegas Spring Race
After announcing a long-term sponsorship renewal with Team Penske and driver Joey Logano two weeks ago at Daytona, Shell/Pennzoil continued to express its commitment to NASCAR racing on Friday with the announcement of a long-term entitlement for the spring race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which will be named the Pennzoil 400 starting next year.
“I feel like the couple of times I’ve sat up here, there’s been lots of good news and great announcements,” Logano said at Friday’s press conference. “Obviously, when a company is willing to invest through 2022 and beyond, it’s a big deal for our whole sport – not just for Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but for NASCAR and our industry.
“So I’m proud to be a part of that once again. This has been a great race track for us in the past. We’re coming so close to winning. I think of Team Penske finishing 1-2 here last year (with Brad Keselowski winning the race and Logano running second). Maybe we can flip that around this year and put the Pennzoil car up front.”