Kyle Busch met with the media Wednesday for the first time since breaking his right leg and left foot in a crash during February’s Xfinity Series race at Daytona.
Busch, who walked to the seat under his own power, looked healthy during the press conference and said he misses being behind the wheel.
“I’m disappointed,” he said, apologizing to sponsors and fans that he can’t be on the track. “It’s certainly discouraging to not be out there.”
When asked about a timetable for his return, Busch determined there still was none.
“I’ve got to please my doctors,” he said. “I have to go step-by-step. They’ve been very helpful. That time will be determined as I get better. Can it be by Daytona in July? I can’t push myself any faster than what natural healing is. I go back in two weeks for my next [doctor’s] visit.”
David Ragan is currently filling in for Busch, having taken the seat beginning with the second race of the season at Atlanta. Rumor has it, however, that Ragan’s time in the seat is growing shorter following Joe Gibbs Racing development driver Erik Jones’s victory in the Xfinity Series at Texas last weekend. After the win, team owner Joe Gibbs said that Jones is “ready” for Cup. Jones currently drives for Busch in the Camping World Truck Series, although the owner was quick to praise his current sub rather than the future one.
“Ragan being able to come in and participate with the best of the JGR drivers,” Busch said. “[He’s] 10th in points right now. He may not be lighting the world on fire, but he’s doing what he needs to do. The team is gelling every week. It’s a good time for the [No.] 18 team.”
Busch also thanked his wife Samantha for all her support during the ordeal, calling her his “rock” during the injury. “It’s been awesome to have her,” he said. “She’s been my second PT. She’s been on my butt.” He said that they are both excited for the birth of their son next month.
He also thanked the NASCAR community and his sponsors for their support. “I’ve had so many people reach out to me,” he said. “Their support has meant a lot to Samantha and I. Thank you guys for being so understanding. The response from the fans has been the most amazing thing.”
Busch then revisited the accident on the frontstretch of Daytona, walking the crowd through his thought process during the crash. He said he was awake the whole time and knew exactly what was going on.
“Obviously, it was a whale of a hit,” he said, breaking the wreck down frame-by-frame. “My initial plan was to push Erik Jones. As I started pushing him, he kind of goes up to the middle. I actually turn him sideways. I’m like, ‘OK, we’re wrecking.’ He attempted to thread the needle but his car spun from the air off of Jones’s car. “I thought ‘I can save this.’ The car actually kept spinning the entire time.”
Once the car left the racing surface, Busch was on the brakes and concerned that the car wouldn’t turn. He lifted off the brake to try and get the car to spin around. “As I go forward a little bit more, it’s still not ruddering,” he said, slowing the replay down.
“I put both feet on the brake pedal in order to position myself for the crash,” he said. Then he realized having both feet on the brakes could lead to breaking both legs. “I’m also saying, ‘pull your legs back.’ Sometimes your mind doesn’t overpower your physical abilities.”
“I tucked down, brought my hands in tight,” he said, recounting the moment before the wreck. “I totally forgot about my legs.” He hit the wall at 90 mph and the crash registered 90 Gs.
“As soon as it hit, there was a moment when everything compressed back and I compressed forward. All the air in my body escaped. It was pushed out. There’s a mark on my helmet, my helmet hit the steering wheel, my chest hit the steering wheel. As it came back to me, I went forward.”
The engine pushed the throttle stop back toward Busch. “Just a pure smack,” he said. “That’s what broke my foot, being on the brake. I knew instantly my right leg broke. It was a sharp pain. There was a flash fire… I had to get out. I pulled the steering wheel off, pulled the belts off.”
He couldn’t push out on leg or foot, so he used his heel to exit the car. “If I could just get to the door, the safety crews would be there to pull me out,” he recalled thinking. “I just sit there. I had to flip my visor open to talk to the [safety worker]. I told him my right leg is broke, my left foot is broke.
“The wreck was essentially all my fault. I was being greedy and trying to win the race. It was a freak deal.”
Busch then joked that he was retiring from Cup racing to go RC car racing. In all seriousness, though the driver hopes to be eligible for the Chase when he returns: “I would love to be. I don’t know if it’s going to be 100% feasible to make the top 30,” he said, saying that the points rule was meant to keep one-off racers who win a race out of the Chase. “Do I hope NASCAR takes into consideration that I am… the No. 18? Obviously, that’s left up to them.”
Finally, when asked how he felt about driver safety, he said, “I’m not going to say I’m happy about the wall I hit not being protected. I am encouraged by the actions [tracks] have taken in the right direction towards driver safety. Driver safety needs to be one of those items at the top of the list.”
“It can’t be constructed overnight,” he said of the installation of SAFER barriers in unprotected places at tracks. “We’re all hoping sooner rather than later.”