A split second before his No. 54 Toyota slammed nose-first into a concrete wall inside Turn 1 at Daytona International Speedway, Kyle Busch recalls saying to himself, “Oh, no, it’s not slowing down, it’s not slowing down—this is going to hurt, this is going to hurt.”
That was an understatement.
Busch has been sidelined with a broken right leg and broken left foot since his crash Feb. 21 in the Alert Today Florida 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona. On Wednesday at Joe Gibbs Racing’s headquarters in Huntersville, North Carolina, Busch met with reporters for the first time since the accident and gave a fascinating, detailed account of the wreck and his thought processes during the seconds before he hit the wall.
“I left the racing surface at 176 miles an hour, and I hit the wall at 90,” Busch said. “So the impact was 90 miles an hour, and it was 90 Gs. Obviously, that was a huge hit.”
The impact knocked the air out of Busch’s body in a sudden rush. The sharp pain in his right leg told him immediately it was broken. His left foot, which had remained on the brake pedal, was fractured in the center.
His helmet hit the steering wheel, leaving a mark. His body strained against the harness holding him in place, and as the impact knocked the engine and front suspension back into the driver’s compartment, his chest also collided with the wheel.
Nevertheless, by pushing off his left heel, Busch was able to get to the door of the mangled car and slide his torso out, in a position where safety workers could help him to the ground.
Busch recently visited the NASCAR research-and-development center in Concord, North Carolina, to look over the wrecked car, and the experience gave him a deeper appreciation of the strides NASCAR has made in the realm of safety.
“That was when I got a good chance to see what it looked like and to see how much safety innovations NASCAR has come up with over the years to keep me here today,” Busch said.
“I’m alive today just because of the fact, I think, that the restraints worked, the seats worked, the HANS device worked—everything worked … I can’t say enough about NASCAR’s innovations. From the knees up—nothing. Not a mark on me. Not a bruise, not a headache, not a neck ache, nothing. It was all great.”
Busch took responsibility for starting the wreck, saying he was trying to push teammate Erik Jones. When Jones moved up toward the center of the track, contact from Busch’s car turned his Camry.
“I got greedy, trying to win the race,” Busch explained.
But Busch had no answer for one important question. He simply doesn’t know yet when he will get clearance from his doctors to return to the track.
“They say my recovery is going faster than they expected,” Busch said. But yet—I’ve even asked—they won’t release me a timetable. I’m not lying to you. They’re like, ‘OK, now you’re released to stand up in both boots. Now you’re released to walk. Now you’re released to walk without a boot on your right (foot).
“It’s week to week, and it’s what I can show them and what I can do and what my physical therapist says that I’m capable of. As far as a timetable, it’s still not set yet for me to get back, but as long as my strength continues to improve, and I can continue to show the doctors and the NASCAR folks that I’m able to do the things necessary to get back in the race car, that time will be determined as I get better.”