Gaughan and Busch comfortable in familiar surroundings


            Kurt Busch and Brendan Gaughan have spent most of their lives in the Las Vegas Valley. But now that they both have residences in North Carolina and drive in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, a trip home is a business trip and not a homecoming.

            ¿I¿m definitely comfortable here,¿ said Kurt Busch, who joined Gaughan and 21 other teams in Wednesday¿s NASCAR Preseason Thunder test session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. ¿I love to come here. I mean, it¿s home. I saw this place built from the ground up. I grew up racing at the Bullring, which is just on the other side of turn two.

            ¿But while this race ranks right up there in terms of importance, we have a lot of work to do. I haven¿t had a lot of luck here, but I love this race track.¿

            Busch will start his fourth UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 on March 7. But for Gaughan, a rookie on the circuit, the chance to race at NASCAR¿s top level in his hometown borders on the unbelievable.

            ¿We won the truck race here in September, but driving these cars is totally different,¿ Gaughan said. ¿The Cup cars are much smoother through the air than the trucks. But being on a track that I have raced on in the Petty School, Winston West and Trucks, makes the transition easier. This is a good place for me to get used to these cars.¿

            Unofficially, Busch¿s fastest lap was 32.23 seconds, 167.574 mph in race trim. Gaughan¿s best lap was 32.39, 166.787 mph in race trim. Both drivers said the speeds were slower than previous days due to the large number of cars that have tested this week.

            ¿This is more like real race conditions,¿ Busch said. ¿This is the way the track should be when we race on Sunday.¿



  • The day¿s scariest moment came in the mid afternoon when 2003 rookie of the year Jamie McMurray lost control and crashed hard in turn two. McMurray wasn¿t injured, but it ended a long day for Target Ganassi Racing. McMurray had an engine problem earlier in the day, while teammate Sterling Marlin blew an engine during the morning session. The day¿s only other incident was an early-morning spin by rookie Scott Riggs. Riggs spun off of turn four but did not make any contact with the wall.


  • Bill Elliott recorded this fastest unofficial lap in race trim with a 32.07-second, 168.474 mph, while rookie Brian Vickers recorded the fastest unofficial lap in qualifying trim at 31.25 seconds, 172.789 mph.


  • A total of 23 Nextel Cup and 14 Busch Series teams participated in Wednesday¿s session. The four-day NASCAR Preseason Thunder Las Vegas is scheduled to conclude on Thursday.