With a broken right leg and left foot, Kyle Busch wasn’t able to do much conditioning in the three months he was sidelined before Saturday’s NASCAR’s Sprint All-Star Race.
Next week doesn’t figure to get any easier: His wife Samantha is scheduled to give birth to the couple’s first child – a boy – on Monday.
But Busch passed his first test in his return to racing, overcoming a shaky start in the first of five segments to finish sixth in the 110-lap race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch said he didn’t feel fatigued Saturday night. But he knows next weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 will be a much more demanding test of his endurance.
“Am I going to die out after 200 or 300 (laps)? I don’t know,” Busch said. “Our plan is to go the full distance.”
Busch was forced to pit with loose lug nuts at the end of the first segment, then was penalized for speeding on pit road. It was a double whammy that dropped Busch to the back of the pack for the start of the second segment.
But Busch slowly worked his way back toward the top half in the 20-car field. He was one of three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers to finish in the top six, along with winner Denny Hamlin and fifth-place finisher Matt Kenseth.
Considering his long layoff after his injuries during an Xfinity Series race at Daytona in February, Busch will take it.
“Finishing sixth, that wasn’t bad. It’s definitely where we wanted to be, inside the top 10,” he said. “But I was trying to chase my teammate there for a fifth. But (Kenseth) wouldn’t let me have it.”
Busch had surgery after he slammed into the inside wall in an area of Daytona International Speedway that was not protected by SAFER barriers. He said the nearly three-month hiatus was his longest since he began racing.
“I’ll be sore for a couple days, just muscles that haven’t been woken up quite like this for a little while,” Busch said. “It’s a wake-up call for myself to get back rolling. I never was out of breath through the race.”
Busch said his physical therapist told him recently his cardio was “really bad,” but there was little he could do about it. But as he’s able to do more in the weight room and turns in more laps behind the wheel, Busch says he’ll only get stronger.
But first is the little matter of becoming a father.
“I could only do so much. I’m not going to go for a run on a treadmill or anything. Just trying to continue on,” Busch said. “And next week, we’re supposed to have a baby on Monday. So I don’t know how much (conditioning) I’ll get in. I’ll try to do what I can and maybe sneak away for a couple hours to at least try to get down to the gym and get some work in for next week.”