DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Joe Gibbs is unsure how long Kyle Busch will be sidelined with a broken right leg and left foot from a crash at Daytona International Speedway.
Busch had surgery on his right leg in Daytona after Saturday’s crash in the Xfinity Series race. His foot will be examined when he returns to Charlotte, North Carolina, by specialist Dr. Robert Anderson, Gibbs said.
“Time or length, I haven’t really, I don’t have a good understanding with that from the doctors,” Gibbs said, referring to a timetable for recovery.
Busch will miss Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500. Two-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton will drive his No. 18 Toyota in what will be Crafton’s debut in “The Great American Race.”
The team owner described Busch as in a light and joking mood before surgery. Joe Gibbs Racing management, several NASCAR officials, drivers and Busch’s wife, Samantha, were at the hospital during surgery.
“I can tell you this, Kyle is already telling Sam, ‘Hey, I just want to get back to racing,’” Gibbs said. “He has a great spirit about that.”
Busch sustained a compound fracture to his lower right leg and broke a bone in the middle of his left foot in the crash with eight laps remaining. His car slammed head-on into an interior wall that did not have an energy-absorbing barrier.
The injury is similar but not as severe as Tony Stewart’s from an August 2013 sprint car crash. Stewart sustained a double compound fracture and missed the final 15 races of that year. He was not cleared to get in a race car until almost six months after the accident. Stewart has also had four operations on his leg.
Gibbs wasn’t sure what’s next for Busch.
“The lower part of his leg is all taken care of and we’ll have Dr. Anderson and his group look at the foot,” Gibbs said. “As far as going back to Charlotte, we are on standby with the plane. Whenever he feels like he can travel, we’ll get him back to Charlotte.”
Meanwhile, Gibbs was not angry at the lack of SAFER barrier in the wall that Busch hit on Saturday night. Following the accident, track president Joie Chitwood promised to cover every inch of the speedway with the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers beginning Monday.
Chitwood had crews placing tire barriers in front of the wall that Busch hit late Saturday night to give added protection before the Daytona 500.
Reigning NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick felt the gesture was a bit too late. Harvick hit the same wall in last year’s Daytona 500 and was critical then of the lack of SAFER barrier.
“Unfortunately I was just a dot on the chart, and there was no reaction,” Harvick said. “Now there’s a reaction from the race track. So hopefully there is a lesson learned. The race tracks have to be proactive and they have to look ahead. We know what fixes these walls, and that’s to put a wall in front of them.”
He called the absence of the polarizing Busch from the Daytona 500 “a big hit for everybody in this race.” But Harvick didn’t think the pace will be any different on Sunday.
“We’re going to tear up some race cars today just because that’s how you race here,” Harvick said. “The cars aren’t making the mistakes, it’s the drivers. You are going to have to be aggressive. I don’t see that changing with what’s on the line today to win the Daytona 500. Everybody is going to push and shove and do what they have to do to put themselves in position to win.”