Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch fully embraced his first appearance in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, but says he will take his time deciding on any return to the race.
Busch co-drove the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus which finished ninth in GTD, the team struggling to resolve and recover from a brake issue during a mid-race pit stop. Despite being out of contention for top honors for much of the race, Busch says he relished the opportunity to take on a new challenge.
“There was a lot going on and a lot to learn, pick up on and figure out; but overall it was good, and we had a lot of fun,” Busch said. “I enjoyed it just being able to get back in a race car again as kind of a season warm up if you will, and (getting) out there, running a ton of laps and having a good go of it.
“Unfortunately, we just got a little behind with the brake change there. We had some issues on the right front caliper, I guess, and that got us a little bit further back than we wanted. But we just didn’t have the long-run pace; our tires would fall off real bad. It was a real handful there late in runs. So that’s kind of where we lost ground.
And the third, fourth, fifth place guys — and the front two — were just lights out. Nothing we were going to have for those guys.
“It was good fun the racing at night. People were talking about just how difficult that was, (but) I’ve been to some short tracks that don’t have very good lights! There were plenty of lights here to see around. Obviously when you’re following a guy or having a guy follow you and the lights are in your mirror the entire lap around the racetrack, that’s a bit difficult; but it’s not too bad.
“Just getting that experience of some nighttime running was fun, and getting through a first 24 hours was pretty cool,” Busch added. “We’ll see what happens next.
“It’s too soon to say. Let me digest all of this and figure it out. I enjoyed the experience and being able to get out there and do it. Certainly you always wish to or want to run better; we’d like to get our performance better.”
Busch ran a triple stint at one stage of the race and also carried out duties to the checkered flag, and says he was more than happy to take on added responsibility with teammate Jack Hawksworth feeling unwell.
“They asked me to get in the car when they needed me. Jack was under the weather, not feeling well. He got his runtime in but then they asked if I would be up for finishing it out, and I said, ‘Sure, why not? Let’s go out here and run it out’. So it was all about just getting a seat time and having some fun and learning racing with some of these guys.”
One of the main challenges Busch faced was being woken up for his night stints, and admits he took some raising at one stage after having had little sleep.
“I tried to lay down and get some rest when I got out at like 9:00, and that just didn’t go very well. I was not going to go to bed at 9:00! So I think I got maybe a 20 or 30 minute nap, and then just was ready for the 1 a.m. when I got in. Then I got out and then woke back up at 4:30/5:00 a.m., something like that.
“They tried getting hold of us. We had our cell phones on for text messages and stuff, but that didn’t work; so they had to come banging on the door to wake up! Then it was like, ‘OK, hurry up, get a bite to eat real quick and then get dressed and get out.
“It was a jolt, that’s for sure. And when I got in the car lap, my times weren’t quite great. I think that was a triple stint … so my second and third stints were fine. Once I got my eyes open, everything was fine. I went from running like (1 minute) 46:90s or something to running some 46:60s, so that was more on pace.”