No question, it’s likely that most of NASCAR Nation wanted Jeff Gordon to polish off his last campaign with a storybook finish, pulling in a fifth championship.
But frankly, the first title for Busch was the more remarkable story.
His comeback over a single season ranks as perhaps the greatest in motorsports history. Only Niki Lauda’s comeback to nearly claim the 1976 Formula One world championship after suffering hideous burns in the German Grand Prix that same year comes close.
Busch’s February in
Florida was light years removed
from his Sunday evening in the . Sunshine
Nine months ago, Busch broke his right leg and left foot in a brutal crash in the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway. He would be laid up for weeks, missing the Daytona 500 and 10 more Sprint Cup Series races before coming back.
That interval between races typically is reduced to one sentence. But if you’ve ever had to rehab broken bones on both legs, you know that what occurred during Busch’s absence from the track was nothing short of torture. Rehab from those injuries involves sweat, blood, pain and depression. And in Busch’s case, determination. A ton of it.
I had written him off seconds after he smashed into the inside wall at Daytona. I was wrong.
Just getting back into the car within the year would have been an accomplishment. Keep in mind, the pain of broken-leg injuries doesn’t go away when you’re mobile again. It lingers. So, just imagine trying to dance on the pedals of a heavy NASCAR machine in the heat of competition with that going on.
Instead of just showing up, Busch quickly went on a tear, winning four races. Incredibly, he somehow managed to climb from the depths of the well into the sunlight.
He makes the Chase. Yet not much conversation centered on Busch as NASCAR’s “playoffs” unfolded.
Instead, most attention was centered on suspicious yellow flags and the mind-numbing Matt Kenseth-Joey Logano “duel.” It was disheartening to watch. Kyle Busch? He just kept driving. And advancing.
On Sunday, back in
nine months after leaving it in pain, Busch quickly established himself as one
of two drivers with enough juice to win the race and 2015 series title. The other was defending series champ Kevin
But it became apparent to me as the laps wore down that Busch had Harvick covered, and Busch wasn’t giving up the title unless the track suddenly disappeared into a giant sinkhole.
Great story? Absolutely.
Do I still believe that NASCAR needs to tweak its playoff system to avoid elimination of Cup contenders as a result of accidental or deliberate crashes? Yes.
NASCAR has several months to work on it. As for Busch, I think he’s earned some quality family time.