Within a span of 24 hours, both of the Busch brothers who rank among NASCAR's top drivers were forced out of the sport's biggest race.
Kyle Busch broke his right leg and left foot in a frightening crash during a race in NASCAR's second-level series Saturday at Daytona International Speedway that knocked him out of the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
That came one day after his older brother Kurt was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR in a domestic-violence case.
In an extraordinary turn of events, Kyle Busch was being taken to a local hospital for treatment shortly before Kurt Busch was making a last-chance appeal of his suspension at NASCAR's Daytona Beach headquarters. Busch lost the appeal.
Kyle Busch's team, Joe Gibbs Racing, said veteran Matt Crafton would drive Busch's No. 18 Toyota in the Daytona 500.
Kurt Busch's team, Stewart-Haas Racing, tapped Regan Smith to take over the No. 41 Chevrolet in NASCAR's crown-jewel race.
Smith also was involved in a separate crash in Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona but escaped injury.
Meanwhile, the race was won by Ryan Reed, a 21-year-old Bakersfield native who was diagnosed with diabetes four years ago. It was Reed's first victory in the Xfinity Series.
Gibbs said Kyle Busch, 29, was undergoing surgery after suffering a compound fracture of his right leg.
Busch's car was collected in a 10-car crash with nine laps left in the 120-lap race. His car skidded almost in a straight line at high speed across the infield in front of the main straightaway and slammed head-on into an inside retaining wall.
The wall was not one of the so-called soft walls that have been installed in many sections of major speedways nationwide, walls also known as SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers.
A sizable portion of Daytona International Speedway has SAFER barriers but the track's president, Joie Chitwood, nonetheless said the speedway “did not live up to its responsibility today.”
“We should have had a SAFER barrier there” where Busch crashed, he told reporters. “We did not. We're going to fix that right now.”
He said packs of tires were being installed Saturday night in front of the hard wall hit by Busch in time for the Daytona 500. After the race, SAFER barriers will be installed “on every inch at this property,” Chitwood said. “This is not going to happen again.”
Chitwood's remarks came after Busch's accident again prompted many in NASCAR Nation, including six-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson, to assert that soft walls be universal in the sport.
“Man I hope @KyleBusch is alright,” Johnson said on Twitter: “It's beyond me why we don't have soft walls everywhere.”
Kurt Busch, 36, was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR on Friday after a family court judge in Delaware found that it was "more likely than not" that Kurt Busch committed domestic violence against an ex-girlfriend last fall.
The elder Busch brother has denied the allegations and he appealed his suspension to a three-member NASCAR appeals panel Saturday.
The panel upheld the suspension, so Busch immediately took his case to NASCAR's final appeals officer, Bryan Moss, who likewise upheld the suspension Saturday night.
Stewart-Haas Racing said it planned to have Smith replace Busch in the Daytona 500 regardless of the appeal's outcome.
Reed drives the No. 16 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and with a push from his teammate Chris Buescher, Reed passed Brad Keselowski on the final lap for the victory Saturday.
An earlier crash in the race involved a dozen cars that included Smith's Chevrolet, which flipped over but landed upright on its tires.
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