“Oh, no. It’s not slowing down. It’s not slowing down. This is going to hurt.”
Those were the thoughts of NASCAR driver Kyle Busch as he hurtled toward a 90-mph, head-on crash into an unprotected concrete wall at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, February 21. The resulting impact – measured at 90 Gs by a “black box” telemetry recorder in his Toyota Camry race car – left the Las Vegas native with a compound fracture of his right leg and a broken left foot; injuries that have kept him on the sidelines ever since.
Busch met with reporters today for the first time since Daytona, providing previously unknown details of the crash.
“I left the racing surface at 176 miles an hour,” revealed Busch. “The impact (with the wall) was 90 miles per hour and it was 90 Gs. Obviously, it was a huge hit.”
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recalled that he “curled up” prior to impact, folding his arms across his chest for protection. His left foot remained on the brake pedal, however, while his right foot remained in mid-air. Busch said the impact knocked all the air from his body, and despite using a full containment seat and a HANS device, both his helmet and chest impacted the steering wheel. It also pushed the engine and transmission back into the foot box of his race car, severely injuring his legs.
"I knew instantly that my right leg broke," he recalled. "I could feel it. It was just a sharp pain.
“I was thinking to myself, 'Man, I'm done,'" said Busch of the moments immediately after the crash. "There's no way I'm going to be able to come back from this.”
|"I curled up..."|
After initially deciding to remain in his demolished racer and wait for aid from the track medical crew, Busch was forced to evacuate the cockpit when flames began to shoot from the car’s engine compartment. He knew his shattered right leg could not support him, and when he attempted to push off on his left leg, the pain of his broken foot forced him to change plans yet again.
He eventually discovered that he could bear enough weight on his left heel to struggle out of the seat and onto the door of his Monster Energy Toyota. Safety workers came quickly to his aid, and since then, his life has been dominated by healing and rehabilitation.
“I'm alive today because the restraints worked, the seat worked and the HANS device worked. I can’t say enough about NASCAR’s innovations. From the knees up, (there was) no problem. Not a mark on me. Not a bruise, not a headache, not a neck ache, nothing.”
He said the last few weeks have been difficult emotionally.
“We had a very difficult time in the beginning," said Busch, whose wife Samantha, in the final trimester of pregnancy with their first child, shed tears at night, thinking of what might have been. Busch admitted that he has struggled to pacify his competitive nature.
In his words, "It stinks to be on the sidelines.”
Busch stressed that there is no timeline for his return to racing, and while he pledged to listen to his doctors and not rush the healing process, he is clearly anxious to return.
"They say my recovery is going faster than expected," he revealed. “It’s week to week, (depending on) what I can show (the doctors), what I can do and what my physical therapist says I’m capable of. As long as my strength continues to improve and I can continue to show the doctors and the NASCAR folks that I’m able to do the things necessary to get back in the race car, that time will be determined as I get better.”