After the way Kyle Busch’s race weekend started at Daytona International Speedway, he was pleased to be able to come away with a second-place finish in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400.
Busch finished runner-up to race winner Brad Keselowski despite the fact that a violent wreck in Friday practice forced him to run the race in a backup car.
That and the fact that poor weather limited time on the track for practice anyway, and Busch headed into the race more than a little unsure of how his No. 18 Toyota would handle in the wild, unpredictable pack racing that is the norm on the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
"You know, Joe Gibbs Racing has been around for a long time, and they do a really good job of being able to prepare some cars," Busch said after Saturday’s race. "We had a mishap there in practice unfortunately, with cutting the tire down and getting ourselves in the fence. But they came back strong and got us a good car.
"When it qualified, it felt fine, and then there the first couple runs that we had with pack racing, I seemed to learn a little bit about it and being able to make my moves and what moves I could or could not make. And from there it was just the rest of the day was pretty normal, I’d say."
Busch led 15 laps in the race and started on the outside of the front row next to Keselowski on the final two restarts.
But each time, Keselowski pulled away from him on the restarts.
"Really it took a lot of guys ganging up and getting together in order to make a move on him," Busch said of Keselowski. "He was pretty smart about where he positioned his car on the racetrack, and I could see that. I tried to do some of those same things, but man, it just never really worked for me as good as he could handle it.
"He definitely just had way more maneuverability it seemed like than anybody, but especially than I did."
In the end, Busch scored his 10th top-five finish of the season in 17 races and moved up in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings from ninth to sixth. Of course, he also has owns a series-high three wins and by virtue of that actually would be the No. 1 seed if the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs started today.
All in all, then, Busch left Daytona in relatively good spirits after the rough start to his weekend.
"You just tried to play it as safe as you could but as smart as you could, and being as aggressive as you could without trying to tear up any cars. … But overall, a good day for us," Busch said. "With a backup car that certainly is a good finish, solid day going into the next one.