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NASCAR Star Kyle Busch Hopes Time at Rolex 24 Isn’t Lost to Pain of Defeat

As the old saying goes, hard work pays off. While that’s mostly true, there are times when it can feel like the hard work doesn’t pay off. Or at least it can feel that way for reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch.

Busch spends nearly every day working toward wins. Whether it’s the 38 weekends a year on the NASCAR Cup Series tour, running his Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series team or preparing for other non-Cup Series races, Busch is always striving for more.

Success in the elite levels of motorsports takes hundreds of hours of preparation, sacrifices and time away from family. Busch’s dedication to NASCAR has rewarded him with two NASCAR Cup Series championships and 56 NASCAR Cup Series wins, including two Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line victories, in 2015 and 2016.

But even with a resume that race car drivers would dream of, Busch can’t help but regret what all the races he hasn’t won. He said that is what frustrates him most about the losses, whether his result is second or 40th place.

“When you’re not able to accomplish your goals that you set out and those achievements of winning races and winning championships, it doesn’t necessarily feel like wasted time, but it feels like lost time,” Busch said. “You wish you could get that time back. So, when you’re able to work as hard as you do and go out and there and achieve a championship, the work is well worth it, and you feel rewarded in that.”

Busch said that’s why emotions were high and “the tears were flowing” when he crossed the finish line first at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November and won his second Cup Series title in five years. Goals were accomplished. Time was not lost.

“I don’t know what comes over you,” he said. “I think it’s the elation of living for that moment. (Winning a championship) is all you want, and to be able to accomplish that, there’s no greater satisfaction than that in your professional career.”

The 34-year-old seeks the same level of commitment and dedication in a crew chief. He wants someone who has the same desire. Someone who is willing to miss time away from family to achieve career-long goals.

That’s why in 2015, team owner Joe Gibbs paired him with Adam Stevens, who he had worked with since 2013 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The two instantly clicked. In their first year together, when Busch missed the first 10 races due to an injury, the pair made a fierce comeback to capture Busch’s first NASCAR Cup Series championship.

“I know how hard he works, how much effort he puts in and the time spent away from his kids,” Busch said. “That again is many of the reasons why we want to be successful and pour everything into this. If you look at him during the races sometimes and he’s punching the pit box or I’m punching the steering wheel, we certainly mimic one another’s personalities.”

Busch also has something else that drives him toward success on the racetrack – Brexton, his son. Brexton was born in 2015 and was just a few months old when Busch won his first Cup Series championship.

However, now at age 4, Brexton is starting to understand what is happening and wants to be at the racetrack. Busch said winning with Brexton watching and taking him to Victory Lane drives him to want to succeed more. He wants his son to remember his success.

Kyle Busch also said having a son offers a new perspective he never had growing up in racing, and even in his NASCAR days before Brexton was born.

“When you talk to him eye-to-eye and you see things from that perspective and through his vantage point, it seems greater than life, and it reminds me of when I was a kid and when I first started racing when I was 13,” he said. “It’s all about perspective. Living in this championship with my own eyes and a 4-year-old’s eyes is pretty cool.”

On Saturday, Busch will continue to work toward another goal he has dedicated so much time to: the 58th Rolex 24 At Daytona (1:30 p.m. ET, NBC). He will be one of four drivers behind the wheel of the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC-F GT3 in the GT Daytona (GTD) class.

Busch said he prepared for the race for nearly three months. He started by driving in a simulator, where he said he underestimated how hard he must drive the sports cars. Then, he sat down with Jim France, chairman of NASCAR and IMSA, to learn more about the event, its history and what to expect.

Finally, he hit the track at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 preseason test in early January. Busch’s teammate and three-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge starter Jack Hawksworth set the fastest time in GTD in the opening practice session Jan. 4.

Busch, Hawksworth and teammates Parker Chase and Michael De Quesada will need to work their way through plenty of traffic over the 24-hour race, as they qualified 16th in class Thursday.

As Busch prepares to run his second-ever sports car race this weekend, one thing cannot be denied: Hard work, dedication and sacrifices went into this race. The question is, will it pay off, or will it be lost time?

Tickets are on sale now for the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line event weekend, which includes a revamped July Fourth weekend schedule, the Driven2SaveLives BC39 Powered by NOS Energy Drink, FGL Fest and the NASCAR Xfinity Series race sponsored by Pennzoil.

 
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