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Kyle Busch crashes early, then finishes 17th in NASCAR race at Daytona

Kyle Busch hit another wall at Daytona International Speedway.

This one was a considerably softer blow.

Busch swiped the outside wall early in his first race at Daytona since breaking his right leg and left foot in a hard crash at the track in February.

Trying to pass Jamie McMurray on lap 17 of the 160-lap race, Busch wiggled and tagged the wall in Turn 4. He lost two laps while crew members repaired splitter and body damage on his No. 18 Toyota. Busch managed to get back on the lead lap, but the damage was severe enough that it took him out of contention.

He finished 17th before a harrowing crash just beyond the start-finish line, less than a second behind winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It was a minor setback for Busch, who needs to finish in the top 30 in points to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Busch missed the first 11 races this season following his Daytona crash in the Xfinity Series season opener, but NASCAR granted him a waiver that would make him Chase eligible with a victory and a top-30 finish in points.

Busch won last week's road course race at Sonoma Raceway, but needed to average a 14th-place finish over the next 10 races to join the Chase.

Failing to match that at Daytona will make it even tougher with nine events remaining before the Chase field is set.

Regardless, just finishing the rain-delayed Coke Zero 400 had to ease whatever concerns Busch may have felt about returning to Daytona.

His crash in February was the worst of his career, albeit one that has made him the unwitting poster boy of NASCAR safety improvements.

Daytona responded to Busch's head-first wreck into a concrete wall by installing an additional 4,000 feet of energy-absorbing SAFER Barrier, commonly called soft walls.

The track also put down about 200,000 square feet of asphalt, most of that in the area of Busch's crash. Busch slid through a grassy area near Turn 1 at Daytona, and the slippery surface did little to slow down Busch's car.

The Joe Gibbs Racing star said Saturday he would like to see tracks remove grass from areas adjacent to racing surfaces.

“In reality, there's no sense in grass,” Busch said. “We have absolutely no reason to have grass at any of these facilities. I think that needs to be one of the next biggest pushes that we can all have.”

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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