American Race Car Driver Kurt Busch joins Yahoo Finance's Zack Guzman to discuss how Nascar is dealing with COVID-19 as Talladega hits new ratings low.
ZACK GUZMAN: I want to talk sports because, of course, if you are a sports fan, this has been a strange year. The Lakers did their job there in the bubble last night, wrapping up the finals, crowned NBA champions in 2020.
But it's not just the NBA that's been running through some struggles here and making sure they can continue with their games. It's also NASCAR out there. It's been a weird year for all sports, but NASCAR still running strong here with the playoffs now in full swing down to their round of eight.
So how is it holding up with all of that action and the struggles on the pandemic? Let's chat with the driver still in playoff contention, coming off a fourth place finish Sunday's race, Charlotteville Motor Speedway. And his 700th career start earlier this year, that was more than any active drivers in NASCAR right now. Joining us, the NASCAR champion Kurt Busch.
And Kurt, good to be chatting with you again, man. Thanks for coming on. As I said, you finished fourth yesterday in that last spot, now on the edge in the round of eight. As a driver, though, how has this season been different for you since, just like every other league, we've seen NASCAR cap fan attendance at a lot of these races? So how has that changed the dynamic for you?
KURT BUSCH: You know, it's been quite a bit different. But a collaboration from everybody involved on the motorsports front from NASCAR to the teams, the drivers, everybody's had to stay within the strict protocols. And it's the process of delivering these races to our TV partners. That's been the number one focus.
But on the flipside, you know, the bittersweet side of staying on schedule and running through our playoffs, we don't have our race fans at track. And so that's been tough. I mean, some states, counties have opened up for minimum seating.
But, like, two weeks ago, I won in Las Vegas, in my hometown, and the governor of Nevada shut down the opportunity for fans to come just the week of. Literally, there was plans to have fans at the track. And that's how quick things are changing.
But we're making the most of it. I think NASCAR has done an incredible job. You know, with the NHL, they crowned their champion. The NBA, they've crowned their champion. And we've done an incredible job to get through 36 races for our point structure, for our champion.
ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and as you talk about it, TV becomes an important piece of the pie here in watching all of this. And you talk about the races that we've seen. You go back a week from this Sunday's race. Before that was Talladega. You were flying through the air. Thank god you're fine.
But I mean, these are the things that get race fans excited. It was 3.10 million viewers on NBC, so that was actually a tick lower than what we've seen for Talladega. That was the lowest rated race track since 1998. And it's a trend that we've seen not just in NASCAR, the NBA.
What do you make of maybe what sports fans are grappling with in this pandemic? Because you'd expect more fans to be watching on TV if they can't go to the track.
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, we've had numbers all across the board, some that were very surprising, such as when we came back from the pandemic break and getting our protocols straight with different states. We raced Darlington, South Carolina. And it was as big of a TV audience as our Daytona 500.
And then there's times when we're on regular Fox or regular NBC, different than the sports networks. And so the sport networks still seem to be a struggle on getting people to connect. And then with Talladega, you would have thought it would have been a big, exciting race where people were tuned in.
And maybe it's because there was other options now. And that's what NASCAR's always fought, is the battle against the NFL, or here in the south, the SEC football and what's going on, for different TV slots. And so NASCAR has to continue to push hard and stay firm on what we have for our integrity of the sport, as well as what days of the week we need to be racing and what product we're putting on track.
ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, it's a strange year in terms of competing things all happening at once. You had the Stanley Cup wrapping up just a little bit ago-- not normally the case.
But when we talk about where you're headed, I ask you about the numbers because you do seem to be intrigued by the media here. And potentially, I don't know how long you plan on doing this for, but you're going to be a Fox Sports 1 commentator for several NASCAR truck series races here.
So I mean, when you think about your career, where you're at right now-- as I said, I don't want to count this up because you're still in playoff contention here, so still in your prime. But what are you looking at in terms of maybe where you go from here and how much longer you're going to be behind the wheel in a NASCAR car?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, for me, to be in this game for 21 years and to have a competitive ride and to have won a couple of weeks ago and to be championship eligible, these are things I never would have fathomed to be possible. And it's just my hard work, the team's hard work, a great sponsor like Monster Energy. Chevrolet is our manufacturer.
And together, we're winning as a team right now. And I still feel like in the twilight of my career, there's more to do. And I feel really proud right now to give back to the young crew members, young engineers, and to give them the advice and the experience level that I have.
And so I'm grateful to be in this position. We'll see what next year brings. I know I'll be out there full-time, running for another championship. And then after that, yeah, is it driver coaching? Is it in the TV industry? Should I write a book? Should I take a year off? Who knows? But I'm excited about all the opportunities ahead.