Usually race fans have to wait until February to see the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion take to high banks of Daytona International Speedway, but Kyle Busch is providing a sweet treat to race fans this year as he joins Lexus for the 2020 Rolex 24 in the GTD class.
He’s in Daytona this weekend to turn laps in the No. 14 AIM VASSER SULLIVAN Lexus RC F GT3 alongside his co-drivers Jack Hawksworth, Parker Chase and Michael De Quesada.
It took a little persuading to get him behind the wheel of the sports car, but Busch didn’t want to lose the opportunity to try out the road course for the marquee event of the WeatherTech Championship season.
“I’ve been asked the last couple years by the folks at Toyota/Lexus to come out here and run their car, and I politely declined them the first couple times,” Busch said Friday afternoon. “I felt like if I didn’t say yes eventually, then I would probably never be asked again.”
Busch has turned laps on the Daytona road course before — over a decade ago in a Daytona Prototype with Scott Speed in the summer sprint race in 2008. And he hopes this time he fares better.
“It was a thousand degrees inside the car, we had the NASCAR race that night, I remember just being flushed after that race was over, it was so hot,” he said. “We didn‘t fare too well. I was slow. The car was slow. We were slow. So, I’m looking forward to being a bit faster this time around.”
Busch is relying heavily on teammate Hawksworth for advice as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver gets used to the lighter weight and overall different feel of the Lexus compared to the Toyota Camry he pilots in NASCAR. Hawksworth traveled to the Charlotte area to spend a day on the simulator with Busch at TRD. Without Hawksworth‘s guidance at the session, “I probably would have been completely lost,” said Busch.
After this first practice session, Busch admitted that he still has his “NASCAR driving techniques just embedded in (his) brain” and he has to shed them as he learns the differences in the car.
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He also acquiesces that his biggest adjustment is to the braking.
“I‘m used to our big heavy stock cars where you have to start the slowdown process early, the braking zone is forever, and then by the time you turn in you have to be off the brakes otherwise the inside wheels will lock up,” he said. “You also have to take care of our brakes on the Cup cars because they‘re so heavy … you can really overheat them.
“Completely different techniques. On these cars, you can drive the snot out of them.”
The car Busch is driving was fast in the opening practice session. In fact, his co-driver Hawksworth put up the fastest time of the day for the GTD class. Busch‘s speed was middle of the pack as he learned the car, with his fastest lap clocking in at 1:48.544 (118.066 mph).
But for all the differences, one thing remains the same. Busch wants to make his way to Victory Lane at the end of the race.
“I didn‘t come here to completely have fun, of course I want to have fun,” he said. “But more importantly I want to be able to go out there and win for Lexus and for AIM VASSER SULLIVAN racing.”