Busch breaks from obscurity with BMS win

By Jeff Birchfield

   Who's Kurt Busch?
   That's the question many local sports fans have been asking since the driver of the No. 97 Sharpie Ford outdueled Jimmy Spencer on Sunday for an upset win in the Food City 500.
   Here's a little background about the newest winner on the Winston Cup circuit. Busch is a 23 year-old bachelor from Las Vegas now residing in Charlotte.
   His career began to take shape in 1994, when he won the Dwarf Car track championship at Las Vegas Speedway. It was the first of three Las Vegas titles for Busch. In 1995, he won the Nevada state Dwarf Car Championship.
   1999 was a landmark year for the young shoe, capturing the NASCAR Southwest Tour title and later that year winning an audition for a job driving in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for Jack Roush.
   Busch made the most of the opportunity, winning four races and finishing second in that year's championship standings. Last year, he graduated to the Winston Cup Series driving the No. 97 car for Roush.
   Kurt was second to Kevin Harvick in the Rookie of the Year battle and scored his first career pole position at Darlington. Sunday marked his 48th Winston Cup start and Busch joined Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace, Ernie Irvan and Elliott Sadler as drivers to get their first career win at Bristol Motor Speedway.
   The Haas-Carter race team announced on Wednesday that they would be ceasing operations. All team members including drivers Joe Nemechek and Todd Bodine were released from contractual obligations with the announcement and are free to pursue other jobs.
   The team suffered a tremendous setback at the first of the 2002 season when sponsor K-Mart announced bankruptcy. The retailer did stay on board with the team through the Daytona 500, but was absent two races later at Las Vegas.
   Bodine provided the team's lone bright spot that weekend, when he drove his No. 66 to a pole winning run at Vegas. The team picked up a one-race deal for the Vegas event, but after finishing 29th in the race, their season ended.
   There is a certain irony with Nemechek. Having no sponsor was his reason for leaving the No. 33 Andy Petree Racing team at the end of last season. Oakwood Homes announced they would not be back as a sponsor for this season and Nemechek began searching for new employment.
   The situation at Hass-Carter seemed to have the stability that Nemechek was looking for. He was fresh off a win with Petree's team at Rockingham and had momentum going into 2002.
   Now after six races, he is in the same boat as Bodine. The on-track efforts for the No. 26 that Nemechek had been piloting were less than stellar. The team's best finish was a 17th place run in the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington. This past Sunday at Bristol, Nemechek was credited with a last-place finish after getting involved in an accident. He sets at 33rd in the driver standings, currently without a ride as the series heads to Texas next weekend.
   If the battle at Bristol between rivals Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle didn't quench your appetite for Busch Series racing, then it might please you to know that the series will visit the new Nashville Superspeedway twice in 2002.
   First on the agenda is the Pepsi 300, scheduled to be held April 13. Biffle is the defending champion of this event. While in the Music City on Monday to promote the event, Biffle told Larry Woody in a story for the Tennesseean that "Harvick could dish it out, but couldn't take it", as he referred to the Bristol post-race altercation.
   While Harvick won't be in the mix this time, there should still be plenty of action. On June 8, the Busch Series will visit suburban Nashville for a second time, with the running of the Nashville 300 night race.
   Two other night races will cap off the second season at the 1.3-mile all-concrete superspeedway. The Indy Racing League will pay a visit on July 18 with the running of the Firestone 200 and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is hammer down with the Federated Auto Parts 200 on August 10.