Kyle Busch returned to his Las Vegas roots on Tuesday afternoon—but not his racing roots.
Busch kicked off NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion’s Week with a visit to a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) class in room 709 at Clifford J. Lawrence Junior High School on the west side of the city, less than a 20-minute drive from the middle school he attended as a boy, Hyde Park.
Champion's Week, NASCAR's annual postseason celebration, brings together the “who’s who” of the racing industry, celebrities and fans for a robust schedule of events and appearances by the 16 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup participants. The week culminates with Friday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards, which will be televised by NBCSN (8 p.m. ET).
A fast-tracked science and math student in his own formative years, Busch had dreamed of following his childhood hero, Jeff Gordon, into NASCAR racing and ultimately beating his idol for a Sprint Cup Series championship on Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
As Busch fielded questions from the class, it was clear that both his words and his stature as a series champion sparked keen interest from the young listeners. One boy in particular, named Ronan, appeared to have his sights set on a racing career.
“He was pretty excited,” Busch said. “He had his camera going, and he was the one who wanted to be the race car driver, and it seemed like he was the most attentive and interested in the conversation we were having.”
Interestingly, NASCAR had begun exploring the possibility of a school visit by the Sprint Cup champion eight weeks before the season ended, and the STEM class founded and taught by Stacy Schaumburg was chosen for the honor.
It was a fortuitous coincidence that the series champion happened to be a Las Vegas native who had grown up in the Clark County School district.
Busch was a good student, good enough to graduate from Durango High School a year early. “Mostly A’s and B’s,” Busch said of his academic performance. But he had a strong incentive to crack the books.
“Those were the grades I had to make for my mom to let me race,” Busch said.
If there was pressure on Busch to perform well in school so he could pursue his passion on the race track, the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota said his 2015 championship lifted a huge weight off his shoulders and may make future titles less stressful to achieve.
“I was actually pretty surprised by, not necessarily how easy it was, but how I felt through the whole situation, not being too nervous or this or that or other things,” Busch said of his drive for the crown. “I’ve been racing for XFINITY wins or Cup Series wins, and I feel like I’ve let some slip away because of my internal feeling, maybe and not being able to get the most out of the car.
“But this whole experience was far different from any of that. I’m not sure if number two will make me feel nervous or what, but it certainly makes it easier to think, going down the road, that those championships hopefully that we can achieve would be easier.”
Note: Kyle Busch capped off his day with a surprise visit to M&M’s World Las Vegas, where he proudly displayed his newly earned NASCAR Sprint Cup trophy while taking photos with employees and fans onsite. Busch has piloted the iconic No. 18 Toyota for dozens of Mars Inc.’s iconic brands, most notably M&M’s since 2008, making it one of the most recognized brands in the sport.