Kurt Busch on how coronavirus outbreak may affect NASCAR, what Ryan Newman’s recovery says about car safety

Kurt Busch notched his 300th career top-10 finish earlier this month at Phoenix Raceway. Busch is seeking his second career NASCAR Cup Series championship in 2020 as he continues to drive the No. 1 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi racing. The 41-year-old addressed goals for the remainder of his career, when he may decide to turn in his keys, Ryan Newman’s accident and much more in an exclusive interview with CBS Sports. 

You can listen to the full interview via the player below while reading along with some of the highlights. 

On 300th career top 10 finish at Phoenix and looking ahead to Atlanta at 25-to-1 odds 

“It was really one of those races where we had to keep plugging away and taking advantage of other people’s mistakes and give that journeyman type of race and it really turned out in our favor at the end. We’ve still got to get the car a little better and give ourselves a chance to win it next week. Next week is next week, we’re onto Atlanta which is one of my favorite tracks. So hopefully we’ll be in the top five and give ourselves a chance to win at the end. 

“Atlanta is one of the fun tracks where we’re slip-sliding around and you got to  get the setup just right where it doesn’t burn up one tire more than the others because it’s one of the oldest asphalt surfaces that we race on in NASCAR. We’ve got to get the setup happier so to speak and make sure we’re using all four tires the same way.

“(25-to-1) sounds like a good bet, I’d put money on it. It’s one of those where you’ve got to be in position. You can’t shortcut anything at Atlanta. You have to be ready for short-run speeds, long-run speeds and the restarts are getting crazy right now so you have to take advantage of making the right moves. 

On gambling in NASCAR

“It’s always a fun way to interact and to get more detail out of the races and it creates that banter and that jargon back and forth. I think people enjoy being able to find another dimension in any sport no matter what it is. If you’re watching it, betting it, hanging out with buddies or you’re there in person at tracks the betting side of it just creates another element of depth. 

On potential coronavirus impact in NASCAR

“I think it’s one of those situations where everybody has to be aware and take the necessary precautions. For me in racing, we’re out there going 200 miles per hour and you know I’m not immune to it but all of us are just doing our jobs and I’m hopeful that all the fans will still be able to come to the races. We’ll put on a good show and create that entertainment value at tracks.

“I’m a driver, I’m not (NASCAR EVP and chief racing development officer) Steve O’Donnell, I’m not NASCAR so I don’t know what opinion they have or where they want to take things. So for me, I’m just out there racing and enjoying what I get to do in the car.”

On Ryan Newman situation and driver safety

“I feel like he was in position to win the race and one of those unfortunate hook-type draft situations happened where he wrecked on the straightaway. It was a big impact but what an amazing job NASCAR has done with the safety, with the way that he was able to — three days later — walk out of the hospital because of the things that we’ve implemented over the last two decades with the helmets, with the seats, with the safer barriers, with the cars, everything we’ve done in NASCAR to create a safer environment. Yes, there’s still the danger but it’s just amazing to watch him walk out of there. It’s so much fun to go out there and drive these cars 200 miles per hour and have that fun but there is that fear and there’s that risk but at the same time we’re all in a pretty safe environment. 

“I feel like we’ve done the best job possible to position our cars, the drivers and the tracks as well for the best safe environment. All the way around we’re doing what we can to learn from each of the circumstances but for me I always try to put myself in the position to make good decisions on tracks to stay safe.:”

On retirement, life after racing and the one thing he’d still like to accomplish 

“The biggest thing for me is being competitive, having a chance to win and having a run at a championship and Chip Ganassi racing gives that to me. So that’s where my focus is right now and we’ll roll with it. It (retirement) is around the corner though, 41-years-old, you can only race for so long.

“I have (thought about life after racing) but at the same time the phone rings every day with new opportunities and different challenges and fun at the same time. But with my wife Ashley and her polo and starting a family, all of that is going to be in the process of making the decisions.”

“The big thing for me is at this point is those big, big races. Those big, bucket list, checklist items with the Southern 500, winning Indianapolis, trying to win in my hometown of Las Vegas. Those are my short-term goals and trying to get those big wins. That’s what’s left on my checklist.” 

On Tom Brady potentially coming to his hometown Las Vegas

“I think that would be huge. The Raiders in Vegas is going to be off the charts at Allegiant Stadium and the way everything is coming together. It doesn’t matter who is the quarterback there, the Raiders are gonna have a great time and I think every team wants to come to Vegas because it draws in the fandom feel for all week long. Heck the Sunday game will be the icing on the cake but I think everyone wants to travel to Vegas and enjoy the NFL atmosphere because the Golden Knights are off the hook right now.”

On his brother Kyle Busch and the Busch name in NASCAR

“(Kyle) is legend status and the way he’s pieced together the second half of his career it’s amazing to watch. With the way that his combination is with Toyota, Coach Gibbs and that whole program. They’re the guys to beat each and every week. So any time I can finish in front of him, it’s like hey that was a pretty good day.

“I taught him everything he knows. It’s always good to see him have success and the way that he’s approached his craft. I mean he’s one of the best in the sport and will go down as a legend and I’m so proud of him.”

So will Kurt Busch win the FanShield 500 2020? And which dark horse stuns NASCAR? Check out the latest odds below and then visit SportsLine now to see the full projected 2020 FanShield 500 leaderboard, all from the model that crushed its NASCAR picks last season and just nailed the Daytona 500. 

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