Kurt Busch interested in racing Dakar Rally: ‘Reminds me of home’ in the Vegas desert

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After dabbling in IndyCar and drag racing, Kurt Busch says the desert of the Dakar Rally could be next.

In an interview with NBC Sports’ Parker Kligerman (video above), Busch said the prestigious off-road raid event is “on the list for sure,” and that he’s talked to Monster Energy, the sponsor of his No. 1 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Cup Series, about Dakar. Monster also is a Dakar sponsor, backing U.S. dirt bike riders Ricky Brabec (the first American to win the Dakar Rally) and former Supercross star Andrew Short.

“It’s always a matter of just finding the right timing, doing your research,” Busch told Kligerman. “I need to do something a bit smaller like work around a race in the desert Southwest here in the United States first.”

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver said racing in the Baja 500 or Baja 1000 appeals to him, but the November events usually have conflicted with the NASCAR schedule, which will end this year Nov. 7 at Phoenix Raceway.

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“Date-wise, it never worked out to do that yet, but I sometimes go straight to the top and worry about it later,” Busch said. “That’s what I did with the Indy 500 a few years ago.”

Racing for Andretti Autosport, Busch finished sixth as a rookie in the 2014 Indianapolis 500. In 2011, he made the elimination rounds of an NHRA Pro Stock event.

He’s among many drivers from NASCAR’s premier series seeking to expand their racing horizons recently. After running the Snowball Derby last month, Chase Elliott is scheduled to make his debut next week in the Chili Bowl, which also will include Christopher Bell, Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson. At the end of the month, Elliott will make his debut in the Rolex 24, which also will feature Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon.

Since the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, NASCAR severely curtailed practice and qualifying sessions, and Busch said the extra time is having a beneficial impact for moonlighting Cup drivers.

“I think this is a big trend that you’re going to start to see,” he said. “It’s just the time and the new era of motorsports, especially with NASCAR going to just race day. We don’t have practice sessions anymore hardly. That opens up the schedule. We’ve had more time by ourselves. And everybody is looking on the Internet and talking and researching what is out there and what can they can get their hands on and what seat can they get in, so I’m digging this.

“This is something I’ve done my whole life. Whatever I can research to find a race. Heck if it’s even a monster truck. I want to go drive a monster truck and crush cars. Everything is wide open right now.”

Busch said the 2021 Dakar Rally is appealing because of its backdrop in Saudi Arabia, which is the host country for the second consecutive year.

“I love the off-road world,” he said. “The intrigue for me is that it reminds me of home and the desert right outside Vegas. And then the sand dunes section in Stage 4. That is so brutal, especially for the bikes.

“I just love the scenery, I love the competition, and it’s just great to see motorsports on TV already.”