By Jerry Bonkowski
When Kyle Busch emerged from his wrecked race car at Daytona on Feb. 21, it appeared likely the NASCAR world wouldn’t see him again in a race car for several months, if not perhaps until 2016.
Coming back from a broken right leg and fractured left foot are not easy injuries to recover from – let alone recover quickly from.
But somehow, just like he astounds with his winning prowess that has accounted for more than 100 wins thus far in his NASCAR career, Busch has also astounded with his recovery from the February wreck.
Perhaps Busch should change his car number from 18 to 84, as the latter number was the amount of days it took for Busch to go from a hospital bed to back in his race car.
If most of us suffered a similar fate and injuries in our own personal vehicles in a wreck on the street or freeway, we’d be looking at probably a half-year of recovery, if not longer.
Yet, in less than three months, Busch was back racing and competing as if nothing happened, ultimately finishing sixth in this past Saturday’s Sprint All-Star Race.
Admittedly, how Busch will respond and react – let alone feel – in this coming Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 remains a concern. He will have gone from the shortest race on the schedule (albeit a non-points race) to the longest and most grueling test of man and machine in the sport.
Busch completed 110 laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the All-Star Race. He’ll have to complete nearly four times that many laps in the 600.
Can he do it?
Frankly, if ANYONE can do it, it’s the younger Busch brother. He was in good physical shape to begin with prior to the fateful Xfinity Series race wreck at Daytona, and that went a long way toward his making such a speedy recovery.
And now, after seeing that he indeed was back at Charlotte, we can finally switch our mindset from wondering when Busch will return to what he can potentially do over the next 15 weeks.
That’s the number of races remaining before the start of – and to qualify for –the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Busch’s recovery and return is already a great story. It would quickly grow into legendary status if he somehow manages to win just one race and climbs into the top 30 in the points standings after the early September Chase cutoff race at Richmond.
I’ve seen a lot of athletes who have come back from serious injuries in impressive time frames. But I don’t believe I have ever seen another athlete come back from such a wicked accident as quickly as he has.
And let’s not forget that it was measured Busch was traveling at 9 Gs when he impacted the unprotected Daytona International Speedway wall.
At that type of speed and blunt force trauma, Busch could very easily have been killed or suffered permanent debilitating injuries.
There’s a certain irony that also stems from Busch’s wreck and recovery. How many countless fans over the years criticized his personality, some even going so far as to say the sport would be better off without him?
But it was more than clear just how greatly the sport missed Busch during his layoff, further illustrating the impact he has and how important he is to the sport.
Heck, if he can finish sixth in his first race back, how quickly will it take for him to win a race? Perhaps as early as this Sunday?
Yes, Kyle Busch is back – and it’s a wonderful thing to see.
Jerry Bonkowski writes for NASCAR Talk at NBCSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @JerryBonkowski.