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Busch, Gordon, Cruise Star In Major Vegas Show

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, December 5 2015
2015 Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch was the man of the evening Friday in Las Vegas. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

2015 Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch was the man of the evening Friday in Las Vegas. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

As he stood at the Sprint Cup awards banquet podium in Las Vegas to accept due accolades and honors on Friday night, the 2015 champion also found time to put a plug in for his surgeons.

sprint-logo-08“Anyone looking to have leg or foot surgery, just ask for the Kyle Busch special,” Busch said.

Without a doubt, Todd McCall and Dr. Bob Anderson, played as big of a part in Busch winning his first Cup championship as did members of the Joe Gibbs Racing team.

It was they who put Busch back together again after a nasty wreck in the XFINITY Series race in Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway in February, forced the 30-year-old driver to miss the first 11 races of the Cup season.

It was they who allowed Busch to walk to the Vegas dais on his own.

“One day,” Busch said, “I went from being able to win races, to the next where I was just thinking about how I was going to be able to walk into the delivery room with (wife) Samantha to be a part of the birth of our son Brexton.”

Busch not only was able to walk to the delivery room, he returned to the driver’s seat of the No. 18 JGR Toyota at Charlotte in May and proceeded to win five of the final 25 races, including the season finale/championship deciding event at Homestead-Miami Speedway two weeks ago.

Busch’s incredible operating room to the Wynn Las Vegas dais story in 2015 was one of NASCAR’s all-timers.

But it may have been only the second best of the night on Friday.

Jeff Gordon was honored at the Las Vegas banquet on Friday night. Introducing him were Brian France and actor Tom Cruise. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

Jeff Gordon was honored at the Las Vegas banquet on Friday night. Introducing him were Brian France and actor Tom Cruise. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

The other good story was the sport saying farewell to retiring four-time champion, Jeff Gordon.

Gordon, who ushered in a new era of NASCAR when, as a Californian who transplanted himself to Indiana and then North Carolina when he began driving in Cup 797 races ago, was introduced at the banquet by Hollywood star Tom Cruise.

So, look,” Cruise, whose presence at the banquet was a surprise, said, “I’m honored to present a legend, one who has meant so much to the sport over the last two decades and will continue to do so even outside of a race car. Now, I remember seeing the photo. His back to the camera, his team’s eyes were glued to him and they were learning then what the rest of us would soon know, this was it.

” And 2015 would be the end. We are happy for him but sad to see him go. When you’re treated to excellence every week for 23 years, well, that’s not something that you let go of easily, and when news leaked out, well, there was a reaction from everywhere. But with a beautiful wife waiting and two adorable children and a back

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was once again named NASCAR's most popular driver. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was once again named NASCAR’s most popular driver. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

that’s howling, everyone knew the word would come eventually.

“It’s now my pleasure to welcome my friend, the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, the legend, Jeff Gordon.”

Gordon thanked a lot of people when he took to the podium Friday: sponsors, NASCAR, fellow competitors, team members, team owner Rick Hendrick and his wife and, even, fans – fans whom, he admitted, didn’t exactly love him when he started his Cup career.

And Gordon, who raced all the way into the four-driver championship finale at Homestead, talked about his future.

“The question remains,” he said, chocking back tears at various points, “am I going to miss it? There’s no doubt there have been some incredible moments and experience that is will be impossible to duplicate in the next chapter of my life. Yeah, sure, I’m going to miss, you know, having that opportunity to win a Daytona 500, maybe another Brickyard 400 or what it was like in that last Martinsville win. I mean, how can you even come close to what that’s like? 

“I’m going to miss the excitement in my team after a win and all of the hard work that they put into it knowing that it paid off or seeing (wife) Ingrid and the kids walk into Victory Lane and the look on their faces. Hearing those screaming fans and cheers of thousands of fans pulling for you. Nothing like that. 

“Sure, I’m going to miss those things, but there are a few things I’m not going to miss so much, like practicing in the middle of the day when it’s 90 degrees knowing Busch graphic 15that it’s a night race. You’re going to be racing 70 degree conditions. What’s that all about? Standing next to a fan – it must have been you in a urinal who’s so excited to meet you that they don’t want to take the time to wash their hands before they shake your hand. Oh, yeah. That one’s happened many times. More than you can ever imagine.”

And Gordon also paid homage to the driver and team that kept him from winning a fifth championship in his final season.

“I Thank this entire industry, but, Kyle (Busch), Samantha, Joe (Gibbs), entire JGR organization, what an impressive year. Impressive championship,” Gordon said. “I mean, you’ve come a long ways from being that kid wanting to get my autograph. And then he was my teammate knocking the right side off the car every practice. But I’m really proud of you, how you’ve matured, you know, how you’ve grown as a person, how you’ve handled adversity. You deserve this, buddy, you really do deserve this championship. Great, great job.”

All from a great, great Sprint Cup legend.

The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide was give to Jeff Hanson, 22, from Overland Park, Kan.

The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award was established in honor of the foundation’s chairwoman emeritus and founder Betty Jane France, for her longstanding charitable and community service efforts. Since its inception, the awa

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, December 5 2015
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