Kyle Busch returns to Daytona with both good and painful memories

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Even though it was the scene of the worst wreck of his career, that has not dulled Kyle Busch’s love affair with Daytona International Speedway.

Busch missed nearly the first third of the Cup season after suffering a broken right leg and broken left foot on Feb. 21, 2015 while competing in the Xfinity Series season-opening race there.

Even so, the 2.5-mile superspeedway remains one of Busch’s favorite tracks. He’s coming off his best career Daytona 500 finish (second), and also has one win (2008) three other runner-up finishes (2006, 2007 and 2016) and a fifth-place showing in 15 starts in the annual summer Coke Zero Sugar 400 there.

You’ve got to be good, but there’s still a lot of luck involved,” Busch said in a media release. “You’ve got to be out front. When your cars are fast, you need to do a good job, you know how to lead it, get yourself through traffic, you’ll be out front a lot of the time.

(Brad Keselowski) is very hard to pass, he’s very fast. When those guys are out front, they seem to be able to control the race. Last year – I think it was a Duel, maybe the Clash at Daytona – Denny (Hamlin) … was leading, trying to hold Brad off, and they ended up crashing. So hard to hold those fast cars back, if you will. They do a good job of being able to predict the lines and how they build the inertia and everything behind them.”

Kyle Busch is taken to an ambulance, having suffered a broken right leg and broken left foot in this crash during the 2015 Xfinity Series race at Daytona. Photo: Getty Images.

While the Daytona 500 is typically run during the day and under much cooler conditions in February, summer’s shorter Coke Zero Sugar 400 under the lights is in some ways even more difficult to win.

For us, you still want to win everywhere you go, every single week,” Busch said. “To win at Daytona is always cool. It’s definitely special. It’s the birthplace of NASCAR – the superspeedway aspect of it. I definitely love going there.

It’s hot, it’s slick and you can make the most out of yourself as a driver and what you’ve got in the car. We won there in 2008 and I’m hoping we can get a win with our Interstate Batteries Camry this weekend. We came so close to my first Daytona 500 win in February, so I would really like to finish the deal this weekend and get to victory lane – that’s always the goal.”

Busch has made 28 starts at Daytona in a Cup car, with the majority of his success coming in the 400. For whatever reason, the summer race always seems to bring out a better side of him – although it can be a bit toasty at times.

It’s going to be a hot one,” Busch predicted (wunderground.com is calling for a high of 88 degrees and a 50% chance Saturday afternoon, just a few hours before the green flag drops for Saturday night’s race. “Right now, it’s all about getting your fluids back in you throughout the entire week.

You’re not going to get them all back in one or two nights. It’s going to take the entirety of a week. You’ll start over again after that race. It’s Daytona. A lot of different planning goes into that.”

Saturday night’s race marks the first time that Cup drivers will pilot cars without restrictor plates since 1988. Plates have been replaced by tapered spacers. But Busch is convinced the racing will still be similar to plate competition – and with the usual suspects who seem to do well there, as well as the almost obligatory “big one” (or more than one in the same race).

I don’t ever really think about when something is going to happen,” Busch said. “That’s a spur of the moment thing, it just does happen. As far as being able to make your way, make your maneuvers and things like that, Brad and Denny are probably two of the best at being able to do that.

I try to watch a little bit what they do and how they do it. I’m just not very good at emulating that. They have a really good sense of what’s going on behind them, how they can make the lines kind of build up that inertia, that pressure, it kind of shoots them forward. The only thing I see behind me is a car. I can’t really see what’s going on three, four deep. Any time I try to back it up and stall it in order to get that inertia or get that run going, somebody just pulls out and wants to pass me.”

While he doesn’t dwell on what happened to him in 2015 at Daytona, he hasn’t forgotten about it and appreciates the changes Daytona and other tracks have made to make things safer for drivers.

I think, of course, the things Daytona has done with the SAFER Barrier along the whole outside and inside of the racetrack,” he said. “There are too many different areas on these racing surfaces where we can get out of control and crash into things.

We’ve seen that over the years – I think most notably maybe Mark Martin at Michigan several years ago, getting caught on that inside pit wall. We tend to find about anywhere to hit, so it’s just a matter of trying to protect ourselves, as well as the race fans and our crew members, as best as possible.”

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Austin Theriault not medically cleared by NASCAR to race at Kansas

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Austin Theriault announced Thursday morning he has not been medically cleared by NASCAR to compete in this weekend’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway after his involvement in a wreck in Monday’s race at Talladega.

Theriault, 25, competes for Rick Ware Racing and was set to drive its No. 52 Chevrolet this weekend. Theriault said Garrett Smithley will take his place.

A NASCAR spokesperson said its policy is to not discuss a competitor’s medical information.

A spokesperson for Rick Ware Racing told NBC Sports all info on Theriault would be released by the driver on social media or by NASCAR. The team said “we expect to have Austin back in the car very soon.”

The native of Fort Kent, Maine, has missed races due to medical issues before.

In 2015, while racing part-time for Brad Keselowski Racing in the Truck Series, he suffered a 10% compression fracture in his back in a wreck at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after his HANS device broke.

Theriault missed several races before returning in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Since 2015 he has made five Cup starts, three Xfinity starts and four Truck Series starts.

Updated entry lists for Kansas Speedway’s playoff weekend

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The NASCAR playoffs continue this weekend with the second visit of the year to Kansas Speedway.

The Cup Series holds its second elimination race as the playoff field will be cut to eight drivers.

After a week off, the Xfinity Series will open its second playoff round.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for both races.

Cup – Hollywood Casino 400 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

There are 40 cars entered.

Parker Kligerman is entered in Gaunt Brothers Racing’s No. 96 Toyota.

Reed Sorenson is listed for Premium Motorsports’ No. 27 Chevrolet.

Austin Theriault  was originally entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 car. Theriault announced Thursday morning he had not been cleared by NASCAR to compete Saturday following his wreck in Monday’s Cup race at Talladega and that Garrett Smithley would take his place.

Chase Elliott won this race last year over Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson. Brad Keselowski won the May race over Alex Bowman and Erik Jones.

Click here for the updated entry list.

Xfinity – Kansas Lottery 300 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

There are 39 entries.

Ryan Truex is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Ross Chastain is entered in Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 Chevrolet. It’ll be his fifth start with the team this season.

Harrison Burton is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota for the seventh time this season.

Bobby Earnhardt, the oldest son of Kerry Earnhardt, is entered in MBM Motorsports’ No. 66 Toyota. It will be his fifth career start and first since the Texas playoff race last year.

Joe Nemechek is now entered in Mike Harmon Racing’s No. 74 Chevrolet

Dillon Bassett is now entered in DGM Racing’s No. 92 Chevrolet

John Hunter Nemechek won this race last year over Daniel Hemric and Elliott Sadler.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Harrison Burton to drive Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Xfinity car full-time next year

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Harrison Burton will drive Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Xfinity car full-time in 2020, the team announced Thursday morning.

Burton, the son of NBC Sports analysts Jeff Burton, will succeed Christopher Bell in the No. 20.

Burton competes full-time in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He is set to make his seventh start in JGR’s No. 18 Xfinity car this Saturday at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Next year is going to be a really cool opportunity for me because I grew up watching my dad race in the Xfinity Series, Burton said in a press release. “Making my first start at Bristol this year was really surreal. I remember being a little kid and watching (Jeff Burton) race there and now, I will have the opportunity to compete for the Xfinity Series championship next year.

“On top of that I’ve got Dex Imaging continuing their support of me for a majority of races next season. That’s really cool because I’ve had them as a sponsor since I was 13 and to bring them from pro-late models all the way to the Xfinity Series is pretty wild. I want to finish this season strong, but I’m excited to get 2020 started. My time with JGR this season will really help me because I’ve already gotten to know so many people there and it’s such a great team and organization. They have a long history of helping to develop drivers and this is big for the next step in my career.”

In his six Xfinity starts, Burton has three top 10s and a best finish of fourth at Iowa Speedway.

In 35 Truck Series starts since 2016, Burton has 11 top fives and 17 top-10 finishes. This year he has seven top fives and 10 top 10s. He and teammate Todd Gilliland both failed to make the playoffs.

“As Harrison (Burton) moves up to the next level of his career, we’re happy to have him join JGR fulltime and go behind the wheel of the No. 20 Supra,” said Steve DeSouza, Executive Vice President of Xfinity Series and Development for Joe Gibbs Racing in a press release. “Harrison has continued to show progress this season in his limited starts and I know that will only continue to develop with more seat time while contending for the Xfinity Series championship.”

The crew chief for the No. 20 will be announced at a later time.

JTG Daugherty Racing’s No. 47 hauler experiences fire on way to Kansas

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JTG Daugherty Racing announced on social media Thursday morning that the hauler for Ryan Preece‘s No. 47 Chevrolet experienced a fire on its way to Kansas Speedway for this weekend’s Cup race.

In a statement, team owner Tad Geschickter said both its hauler drivers were “okay.”

He said the team is “assessing the damage to our trailer and race cars and will have more information as it becomes available.”

More: Kaulig Racing hauler involved in accident on way to Kansas