A two-time NASCAR Cup Series champ is now championing rescue dogs.
When Kyle Busch takes the wheel of his No. 18 Toyota Camry at this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race in Nashville, Tennessee, the car will be rocking a paint scheme featuring shelter dogs.
His pit box is also going to the dogs, with life-size cutouts of his honorary pit crew, including — yes — a pit bull and other adoptable pups from Nashville’s Williamson County Animal Center, the Nashville Humane Association and the Humane Society of Charlotte in North Carolina. (Busch lives just north of the city, which is home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and a headquarters.)
“I’m a dog lover,” Busch, 36, told TODAY. “I’ve had pets my whole life.”
It’s a love he hopes inspires fans to adopt the dogs featured on his car and cutouts. Through a collaboration with Mars Petcare’s Better Cities for Pets Program and Pedigree Foundation, adoption fees for pets at the three participating shelters will be waived this weekend.
“Anybody that’s a dog lover, we'd love to be able to have them help support our cause in ending pet homelessness. So anybody that has the opportunity to go to one of the shelters from June 18th through the 20th can adopt any pet for no adoption fees,” he said. “Hopefully they take us up on it.”
- Watch TODAY All Day! Get the best news, information and inspiration from TODAY, all day long.
- Sign up for the TODAY Newsletter!
Busch on Wednesday visited the Humane Society of Charlotte to meet some of the dogs waiting for forever homes, including a couple that modeled for cutouts. He particularly bonded with a Carolina dog mix named Bilbo Waggins, a gentle soul who loved having his ears rubbed by the race car driver.
“I was able to go down there for a really cool visit and spend time with some of the animals there at the shelter,” he said. “We were feeding them treats and getting them to just kind of chill out with us.”
Busch said his own dog Piper is a fun part of his family, which includes his wife, Samantha, and their 6-year-old son, Brexton. The 2-year-old “double doodle” (offspring of a goldendoodle and labradoodle) travels with the family to race weekends.
“She’s very, very sweet. Early on, she was very rambunctious and tore up some of my wife’s shoes, but lately she’s been super fun,” he said. “It’s nice to have her at the racetrack when I come back from a bad day.”
Ultimately, it’s pretty clear that regardless of Sunday’s race results, the biggest winners will be shelter dogs.
Emily Cook, marketing and communications manager for the Humane Society of Charlotte, said both the staff and the dogs enjoyed meeting Busch and his sponsors on Wednesday. She’s impressed by his passion for pets and grateful for his support.
“How cool is it anytime to meet a professional athlete, right? But it's also really fun for us to see who out in the community, out in the world, really loves animals the same as we do, and that was very evident when we met Kyle yesterday,” Cook told TODAY. “He was telling us stories about his childhood pets and we were just talking back and forth and it was such a great experience really for all of us there.”
She hopes many of the dogs find loving homes this weekend thanks to Busch’s efforts — including Bilbo Waggins, who kept stopping for more snuggles as she led him back to his kennel after Busch’s visit.
“We'd love nothing more than to have empty kennels at our shelter, of course, but we know that there are always going to be animals that need our help — that need our love and need our resources,” she said. “And so that's what we're here to do for them.”