CONCORD, N.C – In and out of a race car this weekend, Kyle Busch is juggling some significant life experiences.
At Charlotte Motor Speedway, Busch is behind the wheel of his No. 18 Toyota for the first time in nearly three months. At home, he and wife Samantha are bracing for the imminent prospect of becoming first-time parents to a boy, who apparently will be born within the next three days.
Which is weighing on Busch’s mind more heavily?
“I would say it goes within what you’re doing,” he said after practice Friday at Charlotte. “You get to the track, it definitely weighs on you. Getting back in that car, how’s it going to be, am I going to screw up? I got loose one time today and thought, ‘Just don’t spin out. Don’t spin out.’
“I’m sure when I start heading home, it’s like, ‘All right, things are soon to change.’ It’s a legitimate, he’s here on Monday, no doubt. No iff, ands or buts. So Samantha and I chuckled about that last night. We looked at each other and were like, ‘What are we going to be doing in 72 hours?’ It’s going to be time to be parents. We’re excited, though. Again, just hoping that the timing is right.”
Busch joked that he told Samantha to “keep her legs crossed” when we left their house Friday morning, and he practiced as if he were in a hurry to get back. Busch turned the fastest lap (188.884 mph) in the lone practice for Saturday’s Sprint All-Star Race.
“Everything felt good,” said Busch, who is adapting to a new carbon fiber seat. “The race car has been changing quite constantly with setups. Just trying to get a feel for what was going on.”
Though he missed the first 11 Sprint Cup races this season, Busch still will have an opportunity to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. NASCAR granted a waiver Wednesday that stipulates Busch can qualify for the championship playoff with a victory, provided he is ranked in the top 30 in points.
That means Busch will need to average roughly a top-20 finish in the 14 races aside from a win. Despite the challenge, Busch was pleased by NASCAR’s decision and noted that some of his peers also supported it.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “It gives us a legit chance to qualify for the Chase and race for the championship. That’s all you can ask for. Seems the rest of the drivers are happy with the ruling and would accept it for themselves. I’m ready to tackle challenge. I know it won’t be easy. We’re going to have to make gutsy calls to win.”
Many tracks, including Charlotte, have made safety upgrades since Busch broke his right leg and fractured his left foot in an impact with an unprotected concrete wall during the Xfinity Series opener Feb. 22 at Daytona International Speedway.
“I wouldn’t say you ever feel safe but safer anytime a track or facility elevates the level of safety for drivers, race fans and the crewmembers,” he said. “We always are grateful for that. Maybe it gives us a greater sense of not being able to get hurt.
“That aspect is still out there. We run race cars around in circles upward of 200 mph. There’s still an element there that anything can happen. But NASCAR and the tracks have done a really nice job over the last little bit to push that safety aspect for all us competitors and the continuation of that would only be appreciated.”