After a scary crash at Daytona left him with a broken leg and foot, Kyle Busch had to focus on some pretty simple milestones.
“Obviously, the first step was just being able to stand up,” he said. “Next step was being able to walk.”
Now Busch can check off some more advanced accomplishments in his recovery.
Busch returned to NASCAR's Xfinity Series on Saturday for the first time since his accident -- and he did so with a flourish -- winning at Michigan International Speedway.
He resumed his Sprint Cup schedule last month, but the race at MIS was his first in NASCAR's second-tier series since breaking his right leg and left foot in February.
“It's an emotional day and any win is,” he said. “You never know when it's your last, obviously that's for sure after Daytona and what happened.”
It was Busch's record 71st career victory on this circuit. He won the 250-mile, 125-lap race in his No. 54 Toyota by 0.477 seconds over Chase Elliott.
Pole winner Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick were battling for the lead on lap 117 when Harvick brushed against Logano's No. 22 Ford, sending them both sliding to the outside. That gave Elliott and Busch a chance to take over the top two spots, and Busch passed Elliott five laps later.
“It was going to be hard to pass that 22 car, and fortunately Harvick took care of that for me,” Busch said. “They got together a little bit. This place was so fast today and such hard racing was going on. I hope it was a good show for the fans because I enjoyed it.”
There were eight cautions for 26 laps, as well as a red flag with 13 laps remaining. That stoppage came after Paul Menard hit the wall and went spinning back down the track, forcing some other cars to the grass. With chunks of grass and mud all over the place, the race was halted for a few minutes.
Logano was leading, but it wasn't long after the final restart that Harvick took both of them out of contention.
“We were racing for a win here and it just seems like he drove in there pretty hard trying to slide me. I drove up in there too and he got loose underneath me and got into my left rear and up we both went into the racetrack,” Logano said. “I was racing hard and he just drove over his head a little bit.”
Logano won his 29th Xfinity pole and led 54 laps, but he had to settle for a seventh-place finish. Harvick finished sixth.
“Obviously, the 22 would have been really hard to beat today, I think,” Elliott said. “Kevin got into him on accident, and moved him up the racetrack, and obviously that opened up our opportunity to have a shot at the win. Even though we had a shot, it wasn't as gratifying as it would have been to pass those guys for real and get out front the correct way.”
Kyle Larson finished third, and standings leader Chris Buescher was fourth, extending his lead to 25 points over Ty Dillon.
Busch won in only his second race under crew chief Chris Gayle — the first was at Daytona.
“It definitely was a challenging season,” Gayle said. “We start off with expectations of having Kyle in the whole time, except for the non-companions, and really kind of picking up where the 54 left off the last couple years. And then obviously, when he gets hurt, you go through the different rotation of drivers, and not exactly knowing who you're going to have week to week.”