Kyle Busch smacks wall at Daytona as Chase hopes take hit
In his first race back at Daytona International Speedway since suffering injuries in February, Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch was looking for a smooth and quiet night in the Coke Zero 400.
However, Busch bobbled on the high side of the track and made contact with the Turn 2 wall while running 13th on Lap 17 of the 160-lap event. The contact caused significant damage to the right side of the No. 18 Toyota, but did not bring out a caution flag.
Busch was able to keep the car out of further trouble and brought it to the attention of his Adam Stevens-led crew. The team was able to make repairs to the car, pull out sheet metal, change tires and send him back on track.
With no caution coming out for the incident, Busch was two laps down in the 38th spot when he rejoined the field. When NASCAR threw the competition caution on Lap 25, Busch was able to get one of those laps back and the team was able to make further repairs. When the race restarted on Lap 30, Busch was 38th, one lap down.
When the third caution flag of the race flew on Lap 52 for a spin by teammate Carl Edwards, Busch received the free pass once again, putting him back on the lead lap. At the end of the night, Busch wound up in the 17th spot.
After missing the first 11 races of the Sprint Cup Series season while recovering from his injuries suffered in February's XFINITY Series race at Daytona, Busch returned to action at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. He scored his first victory of the Sprint Cup season last weekend at Sonoma Raceway.
Despite winning on the road course, Busch remained 136 points outside of the top 30 in driver standings. In order to make the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field and contend for the Sprint Cup championship, Busch needs to be in the top 30 in the driver standings when the regular season ends at Richmond International Raceway in September.
Rallying back to a 17th-place finish was a strong rebound for Busch and the JGR team, but he only gained eight points on Cole Whitt, who is 30th in the driver standings. While Busch and the team were able to fight back from the contact with the wall and climb back on the lead lap, he heads to Kentucky Speedway this weekend 128 points out of the top 30 and his Chase hopes on the ropes once again.