NASCAR Gives Thanks

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The cars are parked for another season and freshly-distributed trophies have found new homes. As NASCAR throttles toward its off season, drivers are taking their first deep breaths in months. And some are eyeing their refrigerators.

This week's Thanksgiving holiday conjures feast images along with heartfelt thanks, and new 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion Kurt Busch already is anticipating the finale of Thursday's Thanksgiving meal.

"Pumpkin pie," Busch said. "With lots and lots and lots of whipped cream."

With food and fun at the forefront, Busch plans to spend Thanksgiving with his girlfriend, Eva Bryan, and her family in Virginia. He'll enjoy a traditional menu with turkey and all the trimmings, and, undoubtedly, an afternoon nap.

For 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Bobby Hamilton, Thanksgiving means enjoying time with newborn granddaughter Haylie, and her parents, NASCAR Nextel Cup Series driver Bobby Hamilton Jr. and his wife, Stephanie. It'll also include a long snooze at home in Nashville, Tenn.

"That is really what I'm thankful for right now!" Hamilton said of the chance to catch up on his sleep. "I'm sure I'll be around Bobby Jr. some over the weekend, so I can spend some down time with him and Haylie. He has a field that he plays paint ball in, so maybe I'll get brave enough to try that this year. If not, it's fun to watch him and several local guys run around playing that."

For 2004 NASCAR Busch Series champion Martin Truex Jr., the path to Thanksgiving wasn't a long one. Following last week's season-finale Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Truex migrated to Palm Beach, Fla., where he'll spend the holiday with his father, Martin Truex Sr., his mother, Linda, his older sister, Marsha, and his younger brother, Ryan. Truex Jr.'s Thanksgiving agenda includes shopping for new suits for post-season banquets and preparing for those obligations.

Kasey Kahne, the 2004 Raybestos Rookie of the Year for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, will spend Thanksgiving with family in the Bahamas.

Busch, Truex Jr. and Hamilton will be feted next week in New York, site of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series year-end celebration, as will Kahne. Busch will be honored during the Dec. 3 awards ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Hamilton, who was honored last Saturday at the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series banquet in Miami Beach, and Truex Jr. will join NASCAR's other national and touring series champions to celebrate their titles. Truex Jr will be honored Dec. 10 at the NASCAR Busch Series awards ceremony at the Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando. Fla.

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