Friday, February 26, 2010

Busch brothers mingle with hometown NASCAR fans

By Anthony Fenech

Friday, Feb. 26, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.

The Busch brothers are everywhere.

As NASCAR unofficially kicked off race weekend in Las Vegas on Thursday, hometown heroes Kurt and Kyle Busch were in on the act as well.

While older brother Kurt was at Pole Position raceway for his second annual Sprint 4 Kids, benefiting the Kurt Busch Foundation, younger brother Kyle was busy signing autographs at a meet-and-greet with fans at M&M's World.

"It's great to be back here," Kurt Busch said. "Everything's comfortable, everything's familiar and it's nice to see everyone you know."

As longtime fans watched on, the 10-year Sprint Cup Series veteran even hopped in a go-kart and took a few laps around the indoor track.

"This brings people back to their racing roots," he said. "This is important to me, to push racing in the Las Vegas Valley. It's where my roots are, where I came from and to come back to create awareness for a good cause, that's what tonight is all about."

The foundation's mission, according to the racer's official Web site, is to "lend meaningful support for the betterment of organizations positively involved in the areas of health care, education, career training and rehabilitation."

A handful of fellow NASCAR racers dropped in on the event to lend their support, including teammate Brad Keselowski, Sam Hornish Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Al Montoya.

"It's nice when us drivers pull together for a good cause," Kurt Busch said.

Over on the Strip, defending Shelby American 427 champion Kyle Busch was signing everything, including jackets, checkered flags and laptop computers.

"It's great to see everybody," Kyle Busch said. "It's always neat to be able to give back to my hometown and see old friends, family and fans that have been watching us for a while."

One of those fans was Bob Fillmore.

A native Las Vegan, Fillmore has a No. 18 Kyle Busch tattoo on his left arm.

"He liked it," Fillmore said of Busch's thoughts on the ink. "This is great for him to do. Obviously he cares for the fans, and it's fantastic."

Fillmore has been following Busch since his rookie year and said following the 24-year-old driver has helped him stay in tune with NASCAR.

"I watch him every weekend," he said. "I keep getting more and more involved, and I think it's because I love the way he drives and represents the area."

About 250 fans waited in line early Thursday morning for tickets to get up close with the up-and-coming NASCAR star.

"They came out early for this," Kyle Busch said. "It's fun to be able to see the fans that watched me as I grew up racing."

Six-year-old Kyle Sickels was one of the many youngsters to meet Kyle Busch. As he approached the driver, Sickels mentioned his name was also Kyle.

"Spelled like mine?" the driver said.

Sickels nodded his head and received a fist-bump from his favorite driver.

"I hope this gives him a good memory of coming down here with dad and meeting his favorite racer," the boy's father, Frank, said.

Frank Sickels started following Kyle Busch when he raced for Hendrick Motorsports fresh out of Durango High School in the American Race Car Association Re-Max Series.

"We need more drivers like him to do things like this," Frank Sickels said. "NASCAR's fan base would be bigger."

And while Las Vegas Motor Speedway only hosts one Sprint Cup Series race a year, Kurt Busch can't believe how the NASCAR community has grown in the valley.

"It's gone straight through the roof," he said. "Before we got our first cup date, it was all about putting your elbows up in the Bullring."

"It's so awesome to see some of the old racers I used to compete against," he said. "It's all about the family camaraderie."

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