Calling it an “exciting day and one that not a lot of folks would have thought (possible so soon) that night in February in the hospital,’’ Kyle Busch says he’s ready to get back to racing.
Busch announced Tuesday morning that he’ll return to the Sprint Cup Series for this weekend’s Sprint All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It will mark his first race since he suffered a fractured right leg and left foot in a Feb. 21 crash in the Xfinity race at Daytona International Speedway. He was injured when his car struck an unprotected wall.
Busch said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon that his return was “faster than anyone would have anticipated, even the doctors.’’
Even so, it’s the longest the 30-year-old has been out of a car since he started racing at age 13.
Busch twice tested a Late Model car before he was cleared by NASCAR’s medical team Monday. Busch said he’s had “good dialogue” with NASCAR in regards to a waiver for him to compete in the Chase if he wins any of the next 15 points races but was not aware if NASCAR had made a decision on what it would do. He also said that Erik Jones will be on standby if he needs to get out of the car.
Busch admitted there were times he hoped to be back by Talladega (May 3) or Kansas (May 9).
“There’s been good days and there’s been bad days,’’ he said. “I definitely would have said a few weeks ago that I’m probably ready for a return at Talladega or Kansas, but then there’s been a day or two within two weeks where I was like, “Oh man, I’m glad I didn’t decide to come back, I’m glad we waited a little bit longer.’ Some day you might feel a little bit worse after too much therapy or too much whatever that just brings on some pain symptoms.
“For me, getting into the All-Star race I felt like was a good idea just based off the fact of being able to get in, get behind the wheel, being able to go 200 miles an hour again, just get a small taste of it and make sure that everything is good, the body is fine … which I anticipate it to be. If there are things I need to work on, maybe I can work on during the week and get myself prepared for the (Coca-Cola) 600.’’
Busch said he did five or more hours of therapy some days to help speed his recovery.
“Physically, this is obviously the biggest challenge,’’ Busch said he’s faced in his career. “Even mentally in the beginning. It was a tough challenge to get myself back into raceable condition and, obviously, you want to be back as soon as you can be, but things will only happen so fast. I feel like this is a great accomplishment for myself … just to be able to come back as quickly as I’ve been able to.’’
As part of his recovery, he got back into his Late Model car and tested since NASCAR’s testing ban prevents Camping World, Xfinity and Sprint Cup teams.
He said he ran more than 300 laps in his first test at Greenville-Pickens Speedway and did a second test last week at Hickory Motor Speedway.
“It was shaking the rust off for me but also just proving that I can handle brake pressures and clutch with the (left) foot and making sure the (right) leg wouldn’t tense up or spasm in the racecar,’’ Busch said. “It worked good to simulate as much of the racing conditions as we could.
“The brake pressure I felt was probably most comparable to Dover, Charlotte being even lighter than what Dover would be. I was the only car on the track, so you couldn’t simulate racing side-by-side, but we did have random cautions in there, practice coming in and out of the pits, applying sudden brake pressures, things of that nature to simulate, as best as we could, race conditions to provide a good look at how I would be able to respond, how well my body would respond.’’
Busch said he’ll focus on Cup for now and work his way back into driving in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series.
“Going forward, the game plan right now is to focus on the Cup Series for the time being,’’ he said. “I think that will be enough on my plate for the next several weeks. I plan to work my way back to multiple series. But it’s a process on its own, and we’ll be smart about that. We’ll just see how that comes.’’
Busch’s return is timed nearly to when his wife is scheduled to deliver their first child, a boy. Busch said her due date is May 22. What if she goes into labor Saturday?
“My plan has always been to be there for the birth,’’ he said. “The good thing about Charlotte is we have more flexibility being here than if we were on the other side of the country.
“We’ll see what happens the next few days. We’re definitely ready for Baby Busch to enter the world. We couldn’t be more excited as we get closer and the anticipation rises here. We’re going hour by hour right now. It could be any hour that he decides he wants to be here.