Larry Mac: Why Kyle Busch shouldn't rush return to No. 18 seat
I know there are a lot of folks talking about when Kyle Busch is going to return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. In fact, he tested a Late Model car late last week. There are just too many unknowns yet for the discussion to begin about whether Kyle can come back, win a race, make the top 30 in points and qualify for the Chase.
If you remember, Kyle met with the media on April 15. While obviously he hopes to be able to make the Chase, it's really up to his doctors and NASCAR to give him medical clearance to return to his No. 18 Sprint Cup car. Young Erik Jones will be filling in for Kyle until he can return.
Obviously, we need to see when Kyle is cleared to race again. There will come a point in time when mathematically it will be impossible for him to make the top 30 in points. Now granted, some solid top-five and top-10 finishes can propel him forward pretty quickly from the zero points that he has today to 30th spot or above.
I'm OK if he can pull that off as long as NASCAR keeps all the rules in place and doesn't bend anything to allow Kyle an advantage to make the Chase. If you can win a race and also be in the top 30 in points at the end of the Richmond race in September, well by golly in my book you've earned the right to be in the Chase. I wouldn't agree if NASCAR opted to waive the top 30 in points requirement for Kyle. I just don't think that would be fair to the other competitors.
Can Kyle do it? I think he can for a couple of reasons. First is, as we know, Kyle is just that good of a race-car driver plus, second, the man is extremely competitive so he thrives on overcoming challenges. One of the other unknowns that Kyle is facing is the 2015 rules package. While we have 10 races in the books, only eight of them have been with the new rules because, as you probably know, Daytona and Talladega race under the 2014 rules package.
Kyle hasn't raced under the 2015 rules package yet. Sure, the No. 18 team has a notebook of eight races to refer to, but Kyle Busch has no experience with it. Kyle has virtually zero time with the new rules package, so that's going to take some time for him to figure it out and get comfortable with it.
It's hard to believe that Kyle hasn't been to Victory Lane since Auto Club Speedway roughly 14 months ago. My biggest wish is that Kyle doesn't feel the pressure and try to come back too quickly. That No. 18 car is his and no one is going to take it away from him. Kyle has to know that, so I hope he doesn't press too hard to come back too quickly and run the risk of getting hurt again.
He's a young man with a gift of being able to drive a stock car extremely well, and he has plenty of racing ahead of him. I just don't want pressure and impatience to take over. I want Kyle to wait and be 100 percent healed before he races again.