Kurt Busch shortly after making his debut in the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing in the 2022 Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum: “I just got put in a bad spot on one of the restarts,” he told Fox Sports TV after being punted out of Last Chance Qualifier Two on a restart. “We needed to transfer. We needed to start off the year strong, and we did not. I’m just disappointed we’re not in the A-Main. We’re racing hard in the Coliseum. This is what it is all about. We’re supposed to be in the A-Main, and we’re not.”
Busch and his No. 45 23XI Racing crew chief Billy Scott both had the curtain come down on them in the Coliseum, but the new duo were using the exhibition race as a dress rehearsal for this Sunday’s Daytona 500. Their NASCAR Cup debut as the No. 45 team will come with the waving of the green flag at Daytona. And they’ll be ready. Having worked together previously at Stewart-Hass Racing – the pairing generated a career-high 22 top-10 finishes in 2018 – they’re back at it.
Q: What did you make of the Busch Light Clash? It was one hell of an exhibition race, wasn’t it?
BILLY SCOTT: Yeah, that’s what it was, right? An exhibition race. I mean, that was the intent of it. It was nice to get back to some excitement and something different. It was an awesome show. It was really disappointing that things went they did for us in the Last Chance race. I guess that’s what it was set up to be. That’s what NASCAR wanted. They wanted everybody fighting to get in there and they wanted significance put on the preliminary races leading up into the main. That’s what provided the excitement and the drama out there, so I get it. It all definitely provided some entertainment to the fans.
Q: What did Kurt talk about afterwards? Did the two of you download quite a bit?
BS: We didn’t really talk a whole lot about how the racing was. It was a one-off. I mean, Martinsville gets close to that style of it. We talked a lot about the race cars and what we’ve got and were we can improve. We were fighting throughout the day and stuff, but we didn’t really talk a whole lot about any of that. More or less, we’ve just been focusing on moving forward when we get to the real tracks.
Q: What was your takeaway from the Next Gen car at the Coliseum?
BS: Yeah, it did good with everything. It was surprising how well it turned. We knew it was going to be pretty good and there was ample braking and acceleration. With the transaxles there were a few small problems with some mounts, but the components themselves all held up really well, so that was good. Yeah, the car performed well.
Q: The Los Angeles Coliseum Busch Light Clash and the Daytona 500 are a complete juxtaposition to one another. Did you and the No. 45 team learn anything on the tiny 0.25-mile Coliseum track that may help you guys dial in the car for the 2.5-mile, 35-degree high banking of Daytona?
BS: I think more just on how to work on it and just the mechanics of making changes. We even needed to learn what kinds of tools were needed and what kind of obstacles might come with that. We had to look at it like that if something happened during the race, we’d have to be able to repair things. No, it’s all totally different. It’s a different style of racing. It’s a different package with the horsepower and downforce levels and stuff. Yeah, we’re starting from scratch with all of that. But we’ve been down there and tested though, so we’ve got some good notes on that and we are ready to get going.
Q: Dale Earnhardt Jr has recently talked about the Next Gen car and the aerodynamic drag the new car may be forced to deal with on the high-speed 2.5-mile Daytona circuit.
BS: Yeah, it’s totally different than what they used to be. We haven’t really had the huge pack out there with 40 cars to see how quickly they get three-wide. You know it’s coming, and I think there’s certainly going to be some caution through the qualifying races and early stages of the races in not knowing what to expect. We’ve seen so many of the drivers lose control during some of the early testing. There’s going to be caution leading up to it all, but when we get down to the end of it, it is still the Daytona 500 and you’re going to have three-wide eventually rows deep. That part is going to be the same, but everything leading up to it is going to be new and a learning experience.
Q: Between the Next Gen car and all the drivers and teams scrambling to get their heads wrapped around all of it, the 2022 Daytona 500 is something of a blank canvas for all of you guys, isn’t it?
BS: Yeah, somewhat. The package is pretty close on the horsepower and downforce and stuff that we had before. We’re used to what superspeedway racing is, and the whole pack is going to run close together and eventually be two and three wide, but how the cars draft up to each other and how they react in the pack and what kind of tuning tools we are going to have to use on the car, all of that part of it is certainly going to be new.
Q: You and Kurt worked together in the past to very good results. How has everything been going rolling into Daytona?
BS: It’s going good. It’s going great. We both picked up where we left off as far as the communication-side of it and the camaraderie and all of that stuff. He’s been awesome with the team and everybody, and he’s been building that team atmosphere and going out to dinner and being around the shop when he’s needed and stuff, so yeah, all that is going really well. He’s seen a lot of changes throughout the years, and he’s adapted to all of it and always come out on the top end. He’s won in every different configuration and different generation of cars, so he’ll do his part. And it is nice to have the familiarity between him and to where we can keep a few things familiar and not have everything be new.
Q: What will make you, Kurt and the team happy when the time comes to leave Daytona Beach next Sunday night?
BS: Leaving Daytona? A Daytona 500 victory, man! That’s what we’re going down there for.
Q: Can you guys do it?
BS: Oh yeah. Yep, that’s what we’re set on.