NASCAR Daytona Notebook: Kyle Busch Return To Daytona Starts With Another Crash

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Jeff Olson ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Kyle Busch (Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kyle Busch (Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kyle Busch’s time at Daytona in 2015 has been far from positive. It took another bad turn just nine minutes into Friday’s first Sprint Cup practice session.

Competing at DIS for the first time since he crashed and broke a leg Feb. 21 during a NASCAR XFINITY Series race, Busch crashed again Friday during the opening practice for Sunday’s Coke Zero 400 (Pre-Race: 7 p.m. ET on NBC | Race: 7:45 p.m. ET on NBC).

The crash involved eight other cars. It started when Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford got into the left rear of Busch’s No. 18 Toyota.

“Looks like (Keselowski) got into my left rear,” Busch said during a TV interview after the crash. “He got away unscathed and trashed everybody else’s stuff.”

Keselowski was able to drive his car back to the garage for repairs, but cars driven by Busch, Greg Biffle, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Sam Hornish Jr. Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin sustained more significant damage.

Busch, who returned to racing May 24 at Charlotte and won Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, is trying to finish among the top 30 in Sprint Cup races in order to qualify for the season-ending Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He’s currently 37th, 136 points out of 30th.

After the TV interview, Busch cooled his criticism of Keselowski, with whom he’s developed a rivalry.

“I’m all about intention,” Busch said. “If somebody intends to do something, I’m mad as I can be about it. But if it’s an accident, then it’s an accident. … These are the types of things you see at this type of race. (It’s) just the way it goes.”

The King and his driver share a birthday cake

One of the first things Sam Hornish Jr. mentioned to Richard Petty when he met him was that they shared a birthday.

“I always thought that was exciting,” said Hornish, who turned 36 Thursday. “The first time I talked to the King, I told him, ‘Hey, you probably don’t know this, but I do: We were both born on July 2.’ “He was like, ‘That’s neat. What year?’ When I told him ‘79, he wasn’t so happy.”

On Friday, just before Hornish headed out to practice for Sunday’s Coke Zero 400, driver and team owner shared a day-after birthday cake near the No. 9 Ford’s hauler.

Petty, who still holds the record in NASCAR’s top series with 200 victories, wasn’t impressed with turning 78.

“I feel the same way as I did the day before, I guess,” Petty said. “No big deal, just looking forward to another year. Hopefully the coming year has been as good to me as what the last year brought me.”

For the record, Petty won the Daytona 500 – the sixth of his seven wins in the race – in 1979, the year Hornish was born.

Confederate flags fly; Daytona president says request to fans was ‘right thing to do’

The confederate flag still flew Friday at Daytona International Speedway, but not at the volume or frequency as in previous years.

A day after the 30 tracks that host NASCAR races issued a statement asking fans not to fly the flag at races – and offered to exchange flags if fans wanted – just eight flags were seen in the infield Friday during the first day of practice for Sunday’s Coke Zero 400.

“I think it’s appropriate for this country to celebrate the (American) flag on its birthday,” said Joie Chitwood III, president of Daytona International Speedway. “For us, (the request to fans) seemed like the right thing to do. From that perspective, I don’t think that’s divisive at all. I think that’s trying to provide an environment that’s inclusive.”

NASCAR doesn’t allow teams to use the Confederate flag or the stars and bars symbol, but fans – especially at venues in the South – have been known to fly the flag over motorhomes and campsites in the infield during races.

On Friday, just a handful of Confederate flags were seen in the infield at DIS, most in the campground inside Turn 3. Richard Petty, the seven-time NASCAR champion and owner of cars driven by Aric Almirola and Sam Hornish Jr., said he hadn’t noticed an increase or decrease in the number of Confederate flags being displayed on Friday at Daytona.

“I haven’t paid any attention,” Petty said. “Even now when I come and stuff, the racetrack is what I’m interested in. A lot of times someone asks me how good was the crowd. I don’t know. I didn’t even look at the grandstands.”

Controversy about the flag increased two weeks ago after nine African-American churchgoers were killed in a mass shooting in a church at Charleston, South Carolina. The accused shooter embraced Confederate symbols, including the Confederate battle flag.

On Thursday, the tracks that host NASCAR races released a joint statement that urged fans to refrain from displaying the flag, saying tracks wanted to “create an all-inclusive, even more welcoming atmosphere for all who attend our events.”

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