Kurt Busch had to wipe a little moisture from his cheeks after winning the pole Friday for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
It wasn’t raindrops, because those aren’t forecast to begin falling until today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The veteran driver and Durango High School graduate was choked up with tears running down his cheeks in a postqualifying news conference after Las Vegan Billy Newman asked Busch if he remembered Big Wheel races at the old Craig Road Speedway, where Newman raced against his father, Tom Busch, in stock cars.
That was 28 years ago, when Busch was 4 years old.
"I never got good traction racing Big Wheels because I was pedaling so fast," Busch said with a laugh. "I never won any Big Wheel races because I was just trying too hard.
"I just love Vegas," added Busch, who has lived near Charlotte, N.C., for the past 10 years. "It’s the people that make it special to me. It’s just fun seeing everybody."
The last time Busch teared up at LVMS was a year ago when he visited Victory Lane to congratulate younger brother Kyle, 24, after Kyle won the Cup race.
Kurt, who won the 2004 Cup championship, said winning the Daytona 500 would be the only victory more special than winning in his hometown.
His lap at an average speed of 188.719 mph in a Penske Racing Dodge led a parade of 18 drivers who topped the track qualifying record set last year by Kyle Busch, who will start Sunday’s Shelby American in the fifth spot in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Jeff Gordon, who won at Las Vegas in 2000 and 2001, will start next to Kurt Busch in the front row for Hendrick Motorsports. Ryan Newman of Stewart-Haas Racing was third, and Hendrick’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fourth. Newman and Earnhardt drive Chevrolets.
A year ago when Kyle Busch won the pole, his crew chief was Steve Addington, who now is with Kurt Busch at Penske Racing.
"Steve Addington definitely has his game on for this place," said Kurt Busch, winless in nine Cup starts in Las Vegas.
Two drivers — Casey Mears and Terry Cook — failed to make the 43-car field.
Sprint Cup drivers and crew chiefs had to gamble Friday because of rain that could wash away their final practices today.
Weather forecasts look good for Sunday’s race, but rain is expected today with temperatures, at best, in the mid-50s.
The Sam’s Town 300 Nationwide Series race is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. today. NASCAR and track officials said everything would be done to get in at least 101 of the 200 laps that will make the race official.
The speedway has six jet-track driers to get the surface ready whenever the rain stops, and with ample track lighting the race could be run after dark.
"They say it’s going to rain, so in Cup practice (Friday) we will focus on race trim to prepare for the race in case we don’t get any practice (today)," Carl Edwards said before he qualified 12th in his Roush Fenway Ford.
Jeff Burton of Richard Childress Racing said the dismal forecast wouldn’t affect how his No. 30 Chevrolet team approached Friday’s practice.
"We’ll stick to our normal plan, which is work on race setup and then qualifying," he said. "For us, it’s not going to be a real big change."
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0247.