Busch Excited To Rekindle His Bond With the 'Windy City'

July 8, 2009

JOLIET, Ill. (July 7, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch's love for the Chicago area goes much further than the fact that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour visits nearby Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet on an annual basis. His affection for the Chicago Cubs is well-known in the racing circle, but his relationship with "Chi-Town" has much longer and deeper roots.

When Busch was in junior high school living in the western part of Las Vegas, he had an almost daily ritual. Even though he lived in "Sin City," he fantasized of being some 1,700 miles to the east in the "Windy City."

"I'd hurry home after school and turn on the TV to WGN in Chicago - it was Channel 16 on the cable way back then and it still is," Busch recalled just as if it were only yesterday. "I'd grab my baseball glove, put on my Cubs cap, hop into my dad's easy chair and tune in to watch my favorite sport and my favorite team.

"There was nothing like it in the whole world," Busch boasted. "It was major league baseball at its best with my Chicago Cubs. I can remember today just how exciting it was way back then. I can still hear Harry Caray with his famous introduction to the seventh-inning stretch, going ‘Alright! Lemme hear ya! Ah-One! Ah-Two! Ah-Three!'

"We might have been living in (Las) Vegas back then, but for several hours every day that the Cubbies were playing on TV, my heart was really right there in Wrigley Field," said Busch. "I dreamed of being right there with my heroes. I just imagined taking the field with my all-time favorites, like Ryne Sandberg and all the other great players on the team back then."

Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion and a 19-race winner entering this weekend's stop at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, says it almost feels like a homecoming event every time the circuit returns to the "Chi-Town" area.

"My family is from the western suburbs of Chicago and I still have many relatives living around the city," said Busch. "My mom and dad got married in 1972 in Vegas and decided to move there a couple of years later. One of the biggest reasons was due to the climate. Rheumatoid arthritis runs on both sides of my family and my mom was bothered by it at an early age.

"Growing up in Las Vegas like we did, there were no major league sports teams," said Busch, "so with my family's Chicago connection, it was only natural to start pulling for the Chicago teams as a young kid.

"Probably what sealed the deal as for my love for Chicago was back when I was just six years old and we went back to visit my grandfather who lived right in the city," said Busch. "We went to Lake Michigan, to the Sears Tower, to the Lincoln Park Zoo - all over the place. It made such a tremendous impression on me. Living in Las Vegas, we never saw anything like that back then.

"What else is there to say but Chicago is my kind of town," said Busch. "As a matter of fact, we celebrated my 30th birthday there last August. It was a great trip and we had a blast. We did some of the touristy things like going to the Navy Pier and taking a boat ride up the Chicago River and out on Lake Michigan. It all was built around seeing my Cubbies play the (Houston) Astros that night (August 4).

"I know that may sound kind of weird to a lot of people," Busch chuckled. "It may sound kinda' strange that a guy would choose to do that for such a monumental event as his 30th birthday. I guess you'd maybe expect to see a Chicago guy head out to Vegas to celebrate the big occasion. But this Vegas guy - along with about a dozen of his closest friends -- headed to Chicago to celebrate his."

Some 54 miles outside Chicago lies the Chicagoland Speedway near Joliet. Busch certainly has a special attraction to this 1.5-mile racing facility.

"Hey, the track may not be in Chicago proper, but it still carries the Chicago name and is close enough that we can enjoy all the great things that the city offers," said Busch, who has recorded five top-10 finishes in eight races on the track. "With my love for Chicago and that area, it would be really special if we can pull off a win there. With all the aunts, uncles and cousins living around there, it would be like one great big family reunion and victory celebration all in one."

This weekend's action at Chicagoland Speedway gets under way on Thursday with practice scheduled from 4:00 p.m. till 5:30 p.m. Thursday's 7:40 p.m. single round of qualifying will establish Saturday night's 43-car starting field. Friday's schedule features practice sessions from 4:00 p.m. till 4:45 p.m. and from 5:20 p.m. till 6:20 p.m. Saturday's LifeLock 400 (267 laps, 400.5 miles) has a scheduled 7:00 p.m. CDT (8:00 p.m. EDT) starting time and features live coverage by TNT-TV and MRN Radio.