Kyle Busch says his return was ‘faster than anyone would have anticipated, even the doctors’


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.

Cup playoff clinching scenarios to make Round of 12

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The first elimination race of the Cup playoffs has arrived in the form of Bristol Motor Speedway.

Tonight’s 500-lap race on the short track will determine which drivers make up the Round of 12.

Three drivers have locked themselves into the second round. Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski earned their spots via race wins at Darlington and Richmond. Denny Hamlin clinched a spot via points.

More: Brad Keselowski on pole for Bristol

That leaves nine spots for 13 drivers to compete for.

If there is a new winner, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 10th winless driver in the standings.

Joey Logano – would clinch with 7 points: 51 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Logano has finished third in the last two playoff races (at Darlington and Richmond). Has made 23 starts at Bristol posting one pole, two wins, six top fives and 10 top 10s. Logano’s average finish is 15.3.

Martin Truex Jr. – would clinch with 20 points: 38 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Earned 22nd-place finish at Darlington and second-place finish at Richmond. Has made 29 series starts at Bristol posting two top fives and three top 10s. His average finish is 20.6.

Austin Dillon – would clinch with 21 points: 36 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Dillion has a runner-up finish at Darlington and a fourth-place result last weekend at Richmond. Has 13 starts at Bristol posting one top five and three top 10s. His average finish is 17.3.

Chase Elliott – Would clinch with 30 points: 28 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Elliott finished 20th at Darlington and fifth at Richmond. Has made nine starts at Bristol and has one pole, three top fives and four top 10s. Average finish is 12.6.

Alex Bowman – would clinch with 31 points: 27 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Bowman placed sixth at Darlington and ninth at Richmond. Has made nine series starts at Bristol with one top five and two top 10s. His average finish is 22.6.

Kyle Busch – would clinch with 40 points: Just 18 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Has seventh-place finish at Darlington and a sixth-place finish at Richmond. Has made 30 Cup starts at Bristol posting two poles and a series-leading eight wins among active drivers.

Aric Almirola – would clinch with 51 points: Seven points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Finished ninth at Darlington and eighth at Richmond. Has made 22 starts at Bristol with one top five and two top 10s. His average finish is 25.0.

Kurt Busch – would clinch with 51 points: Seven points ahead of the cutoff sport. Almirola holds the tiebreaker of best finish in the current playoff round. Busch has finished eighth at Darlington and 13th at Richmond. Has 39 Cup starts at Bristol with one pole, six wins, 12 top fives and 21 top 10s. Average finish is 14th.

Clint Bowyer – would clinch with 55 points: Three points over cutoff. Finished 10th at Darlington and Richmond. Bowyer has made 29 Cup starts at Bristol with eight top fives and 16 top 10s. Average finish is 13.6.

William Byron (-3 points from cutoff; would need help to clinch): Finished fifth at Darlington and 21st at Richmond. Five Cup starts at Bristol with one top 10. Average finish of 17.2.

Cole Custer (-8 points; would need help to clinch): Finished 12th at Darlington and 14th at Richmond. Finished 25th in lone Bristol Cup start.

Matt DiBenedetto (-25 points; would need help to clinch): Finished 21st at Darlington and 17th at Richmond. Eleven Cup starts at Bristol with one top five and one top 10. Average finish of 19.1.

Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney is last on the 16 driver playoff grid heading into Bristol. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Ryan Blaney (-27 points; would need help to clinch): Finished 24th at Darlington and 19th at Richmond. Ten Cup starts at Bristol with one top five and three other top 10s. Average finish of 20.7.

More: Blaney and DiBenedetto seek history to advance to second round

Should there be a repeat winner Saturday – Harvick or Keselowski – the following drivers would advance to the next round by being ahead of the 11th winless driver in the standings.

Joey Logano: Would clinch with 4 points

Martin Truex Jr.: Would clinch with 17 points

Austin Dillon: Would clinch with 18 points

Chase Elliott: Would clinch with 27 points

Alex Bowman: Would clinch with 28 points

Kyle Busch: Would clinch with 37 points

Aric Almirola: Would clinch with 48 points

Kurt Busch: Would clinch with 48 points

Clint Bowyer: Would clinch with 52 points

William Byron: Would clinch with 55 points

Cole Custer, Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney: Could only clinch with help

Xfinity race results, point standings after Bristol

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Chase Briscoe led the final six laps and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol for his seventh win of the season.

Briscoe beat Ross Chastain for the win. The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the race results.

Playoff standings

The 12-driver field for the playoffs has been set with Briscoe’s win in the regular-season finale.

Brandon Brown placed 12th and clinched the 12th and final spot.

Here are the re-seeded point standings entering the playoffs.

Chase Briscoe – 2,050 points

Austin Cindric – 2,050

Justin Allgaier – 2,033

Noah Gragson – 2,025

Brandon Jones – 2,020

Justin Haley – 2,018

Harrison Burton – 2,014

Ross Chastain – 2,010

Ryan Sieg – 2,002

Michael Annett – 2,002

Riley Herbst – 2,001

Brandon Brown – 2,000

Click here for the re-seeded standings.

Click here for the normal point standings.

Chase Briscoe wins Xfinity race at Bristol Motor Speedway

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Chase Briscoe took the lead with six laps to go and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which marked the end of the regular season.

Briscoe passed Austin Cindric to assume the lead and went unchallenged to the checkered flag. The victory is his series-leading seventh of the season.

“I was so mad after last week (at Richmond),” Briscoe told NBCSN. “I told all the guys there ain’t no way we’re getting beat today. I was so mad after how we ran last week and I get on the internet all the time and see guys count us out after one bad race and I know what this team is capable. … I finished second here the last two races and I wanted to win here so bad and it’s awesome that I can actually celebrate it with all these race fans.”

The top five was completed by Ross Chastain, Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

More: Race results, playoff standings

Allgaier dominated the early portion of the race, leading 126 laps and winning the first two stages. But he lost the lead for good in the pits during the Stage 2 break.

Brandon Brown finished 12th and clinched the 12th and final playoff spot.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ross Chastain led three times for 117 laps, but had to settle for his fifth runner-up finish of the season without a win … Austin Cindric earned his 13th top-10 finish in the last 14 races … Harrison Burton earned his 13th top five of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brett Moffitt finished 27th after he had to pit three times in the opening laps and was penalized for taking fuel before the competition caution … BJ McLeod finished 34th after he was eliminated in a multi-car wreck that began when he made contact with teammate Jeffrey EarnhardtMichael Annett finished 31st and Joe Graf Jr. placed 27th after they were involved in an incident on Lap 120.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I hit pit road and I wanted to cry.” – Ross Chastain after he finished second for the fifth time this year. He is winless entering the playoffs.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity playoffs open at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 26 on NBCSN.


Fans not allowed at Las Vegas races

Fans not allowed
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Spectators will be not be allowed for any of the NASCAR playoff races next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the track announced Friday night.

A press release said only essential personnel will be allowed to attend the Cup, Xfinity and Truck playoff races there.

“To say we’re disappointed that we will conduct the South Point 400 playoff weekend without fans would be a gross understatement,” said Las Vegas Motor Speedway President Chris Powell. “Our staff has been working – many of them remotely – since the February Pennzoil 400 to prepare the speedway for our playoff tripleheader.

“But we must adhere to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive that limits gatherings due to COVID-19.  While we disagree with this policy, we have no choice but to oblige.  We certainly regret this situation for the thousands of race fans who won’t be able to attend our NASCAR-weekend events.”

Nevada’s re-opening plan does not permit fans at sporting events, concerts. Groups are limited to 50 or fewer people.

The Las Vegas Raiders announced last month that they would not have fans at any of the team’s home games in its inaugural season there.

The Truck playoff race will be at 9 p.m. ET Sept. 25 on FS1. The Xfinity playoff opener will be at  7:30 p.m. ET Sept. 26 on NBCSN. The Cup playoff race will be 7 p.m. ET Sept. 27 on NBCSN.

Fans holding tickets for those events will be contacted by the speedway ticket services department to discuss credits for future races or refunds.