Returning to racing sooner than expected after an injury sustained at Daytona in February, Kyle Busch will see his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series action of the year in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch fractured his right leg and left foot when his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota slammed nose-first into a concrete wall in Turn 1 during a Feb. 21 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Busch underwent multiple surgeries and missed the first 11 Sprint Cup points races of the season during the recovery and rehabilitation process. Busch recently tested in late model stock cars at short tracks in the Carolinas, and on Tuesday morning, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that the driver of the No. 18 Camry had received medical clearance to return to competition at NASCAR’s highest level.
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Busch said he first tested at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina to assess his capabilities behind the wheel.
“It was just proving to myself that I can handle brake pressures and the clutch and all that stuff with the foot and making sure that the leg wouldn’t tense up of spasm or anything in the race car, being locked in, sort of, at a particular angle,” Busch said.
“The test went really well. It worked good to simulate as much of the racing situation as we could. I ran over 300 laps in the first test down at Greenville-Pickens, and the brake pressure I felt was probably comparable most to Dover—Charlotte actually being lighter than what Dover would be.
“You couldn’t simulate racing side-by-side, but we did have random cautions in there, practiced coming in and out of the pits, applying sudden brake pressures—things of that nature—to kind of simulate, as best as we could, race conditions to provide a good look at how I’d be able to respond, and how well my body would respond, so it was good.”
Busch’s medical team attended another late model test last week at Hickory Motor Speedway, and on Monday he received his medical clearance to race.
Busch felt the Sprint All-Star race, with mandatory breaks between segments, would be the ideal place for him to start acclimating to the 2015 Sprint Cup rules package, which he will race for the first time on Saturday.
“I think it’s a great race to come back to,” Busch said. “For one, it’s shorter, and it’s a non-points events. There’s mandatory cautions after every 25 laps, and whatnot, so it gives you the opportunity to take a breather, take a rest, whatever it might be.
“That will all help me to make adjustments to myself, as well as being behind the wheel of the 2015 Camry for the first time, because I haven’t had the opportunity to race at all in this aero package. I appreciate everyone’s patience through the process. I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the M&M’s Toyota this week.”
Busch acknowledged there has been dialogue with NASCAR about his possible eligibility for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but the sanctioning body has yet to issue a definitive ruling on that question.
Ordinarily, Busch would have to both win a race and finish in the top 30 in the series standings after 26 races, but Busch raised the possibility that the top-30 requirement might be waived under the special circumstances of his injury and return to the track.
“I’d love to race for a win and a spot in the Chase…” Busch said. “We’ll see what happens. That’s in their hands, and we’ll see what the decision is.”
Throughout his career, Busch has been a prolific winner in both the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series, but in the short term at least, he plans to restrict his racing activity to Sprint Cup.
With wife Samantha expecting the couple’s first child on May 22, Busch doubtless will have enough on his plate for the time being.
Reid Spencer- NASCAR Wire Service
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