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Kurt Busch says no more Mr. Nice Guy as he chases NASCAR title

Updated October 24, 2020 - 2:12 pm

He has spent the past few seasons mending fences and making nice with the other drivers. But Kurt Busch suggested he’s willing to throw altruism out the window in the next two races if it means qualifying for the NASCAR championship.

“Yeah, for me, I’m already past that line,” said the veteran racer from Las Vegas about resorting to aggressive tactics if they lead to winning Sunday’s race at Texas or next weekend’s at Martinsville, Virginia, and securing a berth among the four drivers who will race for the title Nov. 8 at Phoenix.

“I’m not even going to think about it. I’m going to do it. I feel like all the goodwill I’ve built up with other drivers, my position of being a veteran in this sport, and knowing what it takes to win a championship, I’ve put all the puzzle pieces in place.”

And if he has to bend the puzzle pieces a bit to accomplish the goal?

“You can’t hesitate. You just have to go,” Busch said. “And that’s where we’re not going to back down. It doesn’t matter who it is.”

The 2004 Cup Series champion posted a breakthrough victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September to clinch a surprise spot in the Round of 8. But after suffering a rare engine failure at Kansas last week and dropping to last place among the eight drivers still eligible for the championship, Busch finds himself in “elbows out” mode if he’s to avoid joining younger brother Kyle among the also-rans.

“Some are going to gamble on tires and have to race with elbows out and move guys out of the way,” Kurt Busch said on a videoconference call about the strategy of those on the outside of the Championship 4 cut line.

Busch said if you don’t think competing for a NASCAR championship is fickle business, look no further than the rear spoiler of his No. 1 Monster Energy Camaro.

“Over 500 texts were on my phone after winning Vegas,” he said about snapping an 0-for-21 streak on his hometown oval. “There were only about 50 after an engine blow (at Kansas).”

Around the horn

— Whole lotta Gronk: While Sunday’s Tampa Bay-Raiders game is sort of being billed as the Las Vegas debut of Rob Gronkowski (as well as a guy named Brady), it actually will mark Gronk’s return to Southern Nevada to play football.

The four-time first-team All-Pro tight end caught four passes for 27 yards in Arizona’s 31-21 victory over Brigham Young in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl. He wound up being upstaged by brother Chris Gronkowski, a Wildcats running back who caught a 24-yard touchdown pass during the third quarter of Arizona’s first bowl game victory in 10 years.

— The Raiders apparently aren’t good at virus protocol, but they are proving to be a hospitable landlord to the UNLV football team. On the eve of the Rebels’ COVID-19 delayed season opener against San Diego State, Raiders coach Jon Gruden wished the team and first-year coach Marcus Arroyo well via a Twitter message replete with Gruden scowls and grimaces.

Kudos to the coach for doing that. And even more kudos to the person or persons responsible for putting him to it, if it wasn’t his idea.

— Action sports star Travis Pastrana, last seen in Las Vegas finishing 21st in September’s NASCAR truck series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — and one of the times before that, replicating three of fellow daredevil Evel Knievel’s most iconic jumps on the same day — on Thursday jumped the Ego Alley inlet at the city dock in his historic hometown of Annapolis, Maryland.

Pastrana went ramp to ramp at the same time a powerboat was ripping across the water under his car. I’m hearing the French judge deducted a point from his score for unnecessary window dressing.

0:01

NBC’s tweet marking iconic hockey broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick’s retirement announcement Monday:

“After 3,750+ Professional and Olympic hockey games, 100 different verbs used to describe a pass or shot, and 22 Stanley Cup Finals, the legendary Mike “Doc” Emrick has announced his retirement from broadcasting. From hockey fans around the world, we say #ThankYouDoc!”

Emrick, 74, was to the NHL what Vin Scully was to baseball. To use his vernacular, even Flyers fans wish this were one proclamation that could be waffle-boarded away.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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