DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kyle Busch tackled and completed a new challenge on Sunday at Daytona Int’l Speedway, even if the final results weren’t what he had hoped they would be.
The 58th Rolex 24 at Daytona ran under clear skies, comfortable temperatures and featured a star-studded entry list that included the recently-crowned NASCAR Cup Series champion in a GTD class AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3.
It was Busch’s Rolex 24 debut and although his car finished ninth in the 18-car class field, he was impressive behind the wheel – completing four driving stints for more than six hours total.
He was fast enough to make up laps on track, and up until the last driver change, he had the fastest lap in the car moving up the field even after several mechanical challenges so typical in the grueling twice-around-the-clock race.
“There was a lot going on and a lot to learn and kind of pick up on and figure out,’’ Busch said of his first Rolex run. “Overall it was good. We had a lot of fun, I enjoyed it. Just being able to get back in a race car again, kind of my season warm-up if you will, and to be able to go out there and run a ton of laps and have a good go of it.
“Unfortunately, we just got a little behind with the brake change there, had some issues on the right-front caliper. I guess that got us a little bit further back than we wanted to be. We just didn’t have the long run pace.’’
His team owner this weekend, former IndyCar Series champion Jimmy Vasser, was all smiles on pit lane as Busch drove the team’s No. 14 Lexus across the finish line.
Obviously disappointed to miss a podium finish, he remained optimistic about his team’s IMSA season and glad to have had Busch behind the wheel for this renowned race.
“A great team effort,’’ Vasser said. “With the troubles we had, nobody gave up, everybody pitched in. And speaking on Kyle, he impressed.
“I’m not sure why he impressed. He’s a NASCAR champion. He’s won more NASCAR races in the modern day than anybody but it takes a lot of confidence and guts to jump into a discipline that he’d never really done before and he did it with ease. He was really, really impressive,’’ Vasser continued. “He was running times among the top sports car pros. It was a joy to have him. He’s a very serious guy, but he was a joy to have on the team and really added a lot for our people to see how a true professional works.
“Not that we don’t have them here, but he’s a great champion and a true champion.’’
Busch said he remains open to making a second Rolex start, but insisted he wanted to evaluate the weekend before making any firm plans.
“It’s too soon to say,’’ Busch said. “I think I will digest all of this and figure it all out. I enjoyed the experience and being able to get out there and do it.”