Kyle Busch will take the track for the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday at Kansas Speedway sitting in 10th place in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup standings.
He lags 10 points behind the final transfer spot to advance from the Contender Round into the Eliminator Round.
Of course, that hardly represents the toughest circumstance of for Busch this season.
Busch’s season started with a grisly wreck during an Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Busch suffered a compound fracture in his lower right leg and a broken left foot after smashing into an unprotected infield wall.
He said the wreck and resulting injuries nearly forced him out of racing.
“I wasn’t considering retirement, but it crossed my mind it could be a forced retirement,” he said during a September testing session at Kansas Speedway.
Busch was injured in late February and missed the first 11 races of the Sprint Cup season before returning to the track in mid-May.
Beginning with a victory June 28 at Sonoma Raceway, Busch surged into contention in amazing fashion, winning four of the next five Sprint Cup races. He still needed to climb into the top 30 in the driver’s points standings to earn a Chase berth.
When that finally happened with a runner-up finish Aug. 9 at Watkins Glen International, it completed one of the most gutsy comebacks in NASCAR history, a grueling stretch that left “Rowdy” forever changed.
“The injury, having the desire of the determination to get back and going through all of that, I think it just gave me even more desire and determination being in the racecar and wanting to get wins and compete for championships,” Busch said.
That’s why a 10-point deficit with two races left in the Contender Round hardly seems like much of an obstacle.
“To see him in position for a championship now, I don't think any of us could’ve guessed that at the end of February,” his brother and fellow Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch said.
Kyle Busch has work to do, obviously, but there’s a renewed enthusiasm to chase down his first career championship.
“You kind of lose that a little bit over time, sort of getting discouraged of not being able to win a championship,” he said. “You might get down on yourself a little bit, but I feel like there’s a new resurgence in the 18 team this year with my injury and coming back with all the guys.”
Busch and his wife, Samantha, also welcomed their first child, a son named Brexton Locke, around the time he returned to the track.
“Having a son was probably one of the coolest things,” Busch said.
It only adds to a new perspective for Busch.
“He’s done a great job to handle the disappointment of injury as well as the excruciating pain that I really came to find out what rehab makes a human body go through,” Kurt said. “Having the birth of his son, Brexton, mixed in all that, yes, there’s been a lot that’s been on his plate. … Honestly, it’s a truly amazing story with the way he’s gone through it.”
Busch, who hopes to make a move up the standings in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, finally seemed to solve a track that has long vexed him during last fall’s Sprint Cup race.
Busch owned two top-10 finishes, seventh place in 2006 and 10th in the 2008 spring race, during his first 14 starts Cup starts on Kansas Speedway’s 1.5-mile tri-oval with an average finish of 22.7.
That changed with a third-place showing in last season’s Hollywood Casino 400.
“Last fall, we finally hit on something, so I definitely looking forward to getting back here,” Busch said. “That round of the Chase is probably my toughest, so being able to survive that would be good.”
▪ WHAT: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400
▪ WHEN/WHERE: 1:15 p.m. at Kansas Speedway
▪ TV: NBC (Chs. 27, 41)
Jamie McMurray, a native of Joplin, Mo., has been eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship but learned from the experience. Story, 4B