Kurt Busch comes home for charity function

We are feeling the effects of an economy that has smoke billowing from its exhaust pipe like a racecar with a sputtering engine trying not to blow.

Some race promoters and owners of professional teams are reeling, but most are millionaires, so it's hard to feel their pain.

The crowd for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Talladega, Ala., was down tens of thousands. Attendance was announced at 145,000, which probably was inflated. But even then, fewer people attended than the race in April and the fall event a year ago.

And Las Vegas Motor Speedway still does not have a sponsor for its Cup race in March.

In Southern Nevada, the Championship Off Road Race event scheduled for Primm in two weeks has been canceled by owner Jim Baldwin, who claims to be losing considerable dollars with his Southern California home building business.

Times are not good -- many Americans need help.

That's one reason why Kurt Busch will return to his hometown next week.

Through his Kurt Busch Foundation, the former Cup champion will host a charity poker tournament Tuesday, and Thursday he will drive the Dodge he raced at LVMS last year onto the stage during the inaugural Las Vegas Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction at Mandalay Bay. The car will be sold to the highest bidder, with all proceeds going to the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

We all need to help our fellow Americans. Busch -- like many NASCAR drivers -- helps youngsters plagued by serious illnesses by supporting Victory Junction in North Carolina, where kids from throughout the country are provided a bit of normalcy at the special-needs camp.

Having a foundation might provide them with tax breaks, but they offer their fame and time to help others.

Busch, 30, and his Penske Racing team have struggled with their new-model Cup car this year despite Ryan Newman winning the Daytona 500, with runner-up Busch pushing him to victory. The only other bright spot for Busch was when he won June 29 in Loudon, N.H.

One diversion from a disappointing year on the track, where he's 18th in points, has been his effort to help kids. His foundation contributed $1 million toward building the 15,000-square-foot, climate-controlled Kurt Busch Superdome stadium at the camp, which opened in May.

After a demanding week leading to Saturday night's Cup race near Charlotte, N.C., Busch plans to fly to Kansas on Sunday morning to participate in his "Drive with Kurt for the Kids," where fans make donations to take laps around Kansas Speedway with Busch or Mark Martin.

Busch is well aware of a sagging economy, though it isn't impacting his lifestyle.

"It's a privilege to be able to race these cars and have the job I have," he said this week. "And it's great to be able to give back to the community."

He hasn't forgotten that he's only a decade removed from being part of a working-class family and working for the Southern Nevada Water Authority out of high school.

He encourages those who can't afford the $500 entry fee for the 100-player tournament at Sierra Gold tavern (6515 S. Jones Blvd.) to stop by the pub and have fun.

"There are definitely a lot of people who are taking a hit," he said. "Everybody is feeling it. They should just come by (Tuesday), say hi and have some fun."

Helping people is a safe investment.

For information on Busch's poker tournament, call 391-3633.

• TODAY'S BLOG -- Sam Hornish Jr. narrates an educational cartoon for kids that begins airing Monday.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or jwolf@reviewjournal.com. Visit Wolf's motor sports blog at lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal/ throughout the week.