HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – On February 21, 2015, Kyle Busch found himself in an unfamiliar spot – lying in hospital bed after suffering a broken right leg and left foot during an accident in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race that day at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
The winner of 29 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races wasn’t certain when his next victory would come. But just 127 days later and with a lot of hard work and rehabilitation in between, Busch found himself back in a familiar place – victory lane. The Las Vegas native had just won the Toyota/Save Mart 350k at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in dramatic fashion, passing six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and others after the final restart of the race to bring home one of, if not the, sweetest victory of his 11-year career.
So it’s only fitting that the driver of the No. 18 Interstate All Battery Center Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) reaches yet another hurdle – a return to Daytona for Sunday night’s traditional midsummer Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup race. Not only will Busch look to get back on the track and put February’s bad memories behind him, he’ll hope to add yet another victory to his Daytona resume.
Busch is certainly no stranger to victory lane at the Coke Zero 400, having won the July 2008 race behind the wheel of – yes – the Interstate Batteries Toyota. The Las Vegas native has fared much better in his summer races at Daytona as the track is much more slick thanks to Florida’s July heat. He has four top-five finishes in his 10 July starts at Daytona and also scored his first career pole position at a restrictor-plate track there in July 2013.
While another victory Sunday night would be sweet for many reasons, Busch and the No. 18 All Battery Center Team will also be making a huge push toward qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs over the final 10 races remaining in NASCAR’s regular season. Busch has been given an exemption to make the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup and has now scored a requisite win. But he also must rally to make it within the top-30 in driver points during the next 10 races. Busch is 37th in the standings with 125 points, sitting 136 markers behind 30th-place Cole Whitt, so a strong finish Sunday night would be another points windfall in his quest to get himself into NASCAR’s playoffs, which start in September.
Busch rolls into Daytona with support from Interstate Batteries and its Interstate All Battery Center retail stores as the company continues its franchise expansion throughout the United States, Canada and Latin America. Interstate All Battery Centers, which provide “Every Battery for Every Need” with more than 16,000 portal power solutions for all household needs, are recognized as a top-50 franchisor by Franchise Business Review.
So as Busch heads back to Daytona in his Interstate All Battery Center green-and-white-striped ride Sunday night, he’ll know that having been able to accomplish what he did in just 127 days, the sky is the limit on what he and his team can accomplish the rest of the season.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate All Battery Center Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
While you haven’t been back to the track since, how do you think you’ll feel heading back to Daytona this weekend after everything that happened there in February?
“Daytona is not a place that I think owes me one or anything like that. It’s just that I want to be able to go back there and conquer it again one day, whether that’s this weekend or not. I’ve won races there in just about everything. I’ve won ARCA races, Camping World Truck races, Xfinity, and Sprint Cup points and non-points races there. I look forward to getting back there, though, and back on the racetrack. Hopefully one day we’re able to win a Daytona 500 and, of course, put all the rest of those bad memories in the rearview mirror. I would love nothing more than to get our Interstate All Battery Center Camry back to victory lane there.”
What makes the July Fourth weekend night race at Daytona so special?
“I think it’s cool to go to the night race at Daytona. I think it’s a bit hotter than it is at the beginning of the year and it gets to where the track is a little bit slicker. So you get that opportunity to where guys start mishandling a bit, and they start sliding around and you can actually make it a superspeedway race, but there’s more separation between cars than usual. You start passing people when guys are having to lift and get out of the gas, which makes that race really fun and enjoyable for us drivers to know that the better driver can prevail.”
Does the Sonoma win make going back to Daytona any easier from kind of a mental and emotional standpoint?
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t think the win has any effect on Daytona. I think Daytona is Daytona. We fly down there and we roll into that racetrack and, you know, it’s going to be different than any other time I’ve ever probably gone into that racetrack, no doubt. I don’t know what that’s going to be, yet. But I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to getting out there on the racetrack and attacking that demon, per se, and just being able to get out there and get back in the draft and get back in the pack and just work myself to having a good racecar for Sunday night. That’s going to be the thing – it’s another opportunity for us to win a race. Now, it’s an opportunity for everybody. Everybody goes there thinking they’ve got a chance to win that race, so we’re not just racing against three, four, five guys who have better road-course experience. When you go to Daytona, you’re racing against all 42 other guys and girls. It’s certainly going to be a challenge but let’s go get it. Why not?”
How feasible is making the Chase and can you kind of compare your outlook now compared to when you left Michigan two weeks ago?
“It’s certainly feasible. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. This team is good enough to be that way, and I should be good enough to be that way. I certainly put us in a hole bigger than it should have been at Dover and at Michigan. Those were entirely just my fault, obviously, and I’ve got to be better than that. We can’t have any more of those. That’s obvious. But we’ve just got to be smart about how we race. Now, having a win, you know, obviously I think that makes things a little bit better. We don’t have to race as hard for a win. We don’t have to put ourselves in a bad spot when we’re running third, fourth or fifth to try to get that victory. We can run third, fourth or fifth and that’s a good day for us. That’ll be just fine. We just need to be able to do that, and I feel like Adam Stevens (crew chief) builds good enough racecars for me that I can do that with. Joe Gibbs Racing does. TRD builds good engines for us. So, I’ve got no worries on that front.”
Despite what you’ve been through there, how special is winning at Daytona?
“For us, you still want to win everywhere you go, every single week. 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 All Battery Center Camry this weekend.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine