Big Day In Big Apple

It's one day down and four to go, but for Kurt Busch, a full New York itinerary means nothing but good things.

"You haven't been able to wipe the smile off my face," Busch said, referring to one of the busiest periods of his young career – NASCAR's traditional Champion's Week in New York.

As the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion, Busch is embarking on an extensive array of media, public and commemorative appearances this week. He began Monday with two national morning show guest spots and will rev up his schedule with more activities each day.

Here in the Big Apple, Busch said he was particularly excited to see the early crowd appeal of his sponsors' show cars – the Sharpie car parked at NASCAR's New York office on Park Avenue, and the IRWIN Tools car that was positioned at Rockefeller Center on Monday morning.

"Every car is drawing attention," Busch said, "and to see all the people, that's special."

Busch's first Monday appearance was on The Today Show, where he helped kick off the show's annual Toys for Tots campaign by collecting items from viewers gathered around the Rockefeller Center Plaza. Clad in dark clothing and a black and yellow NASCAR Nextel Cup champion's jacket, Busch plopped a red and white Santa's hat on his head, then set off on his rounds with a big fabric bag.

The toy of choice?

"Lots of big bears," Busch said, noting the many teddy bears that viewers plunked in his bag.

Following his toy-collecting duties, Busch participated in an interview with co-host Matt Lauer; his blue and yellow IRWIN Tools show car sat in the background.

From Rockefeller Center, it was off to another part of Manhattan and an appearance on Live with Regis and Kelly. As hosts Regis Philbin's and Kelly Ripa's first Monday guest, Busch chatted about the title-clenching season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his feelings about winning his first NASCAR Nextel Cup title and a couple of fun, offbeat topics.

"It was great to see the knowledge from the hosts," Busch said of Lauer, Philbin and Ripa, and their line of questioning. "It was cool to see their knowledge of the sport."

While on Live with Regis and Kelly, both hosts mentioned the guest appearance by the NASCAR Nextel Cup Top 10 on Sept. 16. Part of a New York media tour to kick off the "Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup," the new method of crowning the series champion, the appearance featured the NASCAR Nextel Cup Top 10 in a fashion show previewing fall fashion.

On Monday, the show replayed the clip of Busch modeling a striped sweater, jeans and suspenders, and he, Philbin and Ripa enjoyed an on-air laugh at the memory.

"That was great for all 10 of us, and then to close the loop with me coming back was great," Busch said.

What's on tap today for the champion...It's a busy Tuesday for Kurt Busch, who'll begin his morning with an appearance on FOX and Friends. Here's the rest of his Tuesday schedule:

  • After FOX and Friends, Busch will visit the Fire Department New York Fire Academy on Randal's Island in Manhattan. And it won't be a sedentary visit; Busch will join some current FDNY recruits on a few training exercises at the Academy, plus he'll spend time with FDNY personnel at the training site.

  • Later in the afternoon, Busch will tape a segment for Tuesday's edition of the Best Damn Sports Show Period.

  • On Tuesday evening, he'll visit the Museum of Television and Radio on West 52nd St., where he'll be the featured guest on MRN's Champion's Show; he'll be the Champion's Show guest from 7-8 p.m.

  • Busch will round out his evening with a dinner with Nextel executives.
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