Kyle Busch was happy Sunday night. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver had just survived his biggest challenge this season, competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The race is NASCAR’s longest and a test for not only machines but drivers as well. It was made even harder for Busch as it was his first full Sprint Cup race back since a three month layoff.
Busch was injured in the season opening NASCAR Xfinity race at Daytona International Speedway. He suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg and broken left foot. Busch missed the Daytona 500 and a total of 11 Sprint Cup races. His No. 18 JGR Toyota was driven by Matt Crafton at Daytona, then David Ragan for nine events, and 18-year-old Erik Jones at Kansas. He announced his return last week prior to the NASCAR All-Star race at Charlotte where he finished sixth.
His biggest test came Sunday in his first race to go the distance. The team had Jones standing by in relief and the young driver had practiced with the car prior to the race. Busch started 17th and in the end needed no relief. He was competitive all race long and came home 11th in the race which was won by his new JGR teammate Carl Edwards.
“I feel pretty good,” Busch said after it was over. “All in all, I felt like that was a great race for us. We ran really strong. We ran up front, and we showed we had some speed. You know, it certainly is frustrating to finish where we did. That’s disappointing. But sometimes you do win these things by fuel-mileage races, so congratulations to our teammates, Carl (Edwards) and Matt (Kenseth). They finished up front there.”
“But all in all, I can’t say enough about everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing,” he added. “Everyone pulling for me and cheering for me and helping me get back into this race car, and to get out there and have a strong run means a lot. Real proud of my guys. Adam Stevens (crew chief) made some great calls tonight and got ourselves in some really good spots and up towards the front. We raced up towards the front. We battled side-by-side, door-to-door with guys for a little while. Felt good. I feel good, and I admit I’ve probably got a little left foot soreness, but other than that, everything is pretty hunky-dory.”
Busch had another life changing event in the week leading up to the race. He and wife Samantha welcomed their first son into the world. Brexton Locke Busch was born at 9:45 p.m. Monday evening. Wife Samantha had the new baby at Charlotte Monday, both mom and baby watched the race from the infield in their motor home. When it was over Busch said he was a bit amazed he had gone the distance.
“I’m a little surprised that I feel as good as I do, you know,” Busch said. “I was expecting to be a little bit more beat up and tired, but honestly, I’m not. I don’t know if that’s… there could be two sides to that. If you go week-to-week-to-week you could grind yourself out and you get tired, whereas I just took a three-month vacation so my body feels pretty good and it’s only been beat up in the gym. Other than that, you know, I feel like this was a good night and a great accomplishment. I feel like coming back this quick, you know, was a huge task, but I can’t thank everyone enough, everyone at Ortho-Carolina. I think those guys did a fantastic job helping me and pushing me and getting me to where I needed to be. Without them, I wouldn’t be here probably.”