NASCAR’s new media availability model continues to provide more interviews and content than I know what to do with. In an effort not to waste it, here are three of the most interesting notes and nuggets from Friday.
Kyle Busch’s terrifying moment
Brexton Busch, who turns 4 years old this month, was riding one of those 4-wheelers for kids this week when he suddenly flew off and hit his head — briefly knocking him unconscious.
His frightened dad witnessed the entire thing.
“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen — to see your son lying there, lifeless,” Kyle Busch said on Friday.
Kyle had taught Brexton to ride the 4-wheeler, saying it was OK to go fast in a straight line but reminding him to let off the gas and use the brake while turning. Brexton did just that for an hour with no problems and seemed to be comfortable.
But when Brexton’s friends suddenly darted off in one direction, Brexton tried to follow and forgot the instructions about slowing down. He tipped up onto two wheels and then flew off the machine, hitting his head.
Kyle immediately ran to the scene and took his son’s helmet off, squeezed Brexton’s face and scanned for signs of life. Fortunately, Brexton took a couple deep breaths; Kyle yelled for someone to get a bottle of water to pour on his son.
Brexton woke up crying and shaken up, and had to spend the night in the hospital. But he was OK — thanks to the full-face helmet.
“Thankfully, it was only about 10 seconds and he came back to,” Kyle said. “He doesn’t remember all of that going on, which is a good and bad thing, I think. It was a good damn thing he had his helmet on, because he might not be here.”
Said Kyle of the terrifying moment: “There’s nothing else like it. I don’t wish it on anybody and I certainly don’t want to see it again.”
Bubba Wallace’s reality
It’s been clear for awhile now that Bubba Wallace is the most real, raw driver when it comes to openly showing his emotions. He’s unable to hide how he feels or fake anything, good or bad.
So when he’s experiencing tough times in life, Wallace can’t cover it up and put on a happy face. That’s just not his reality right now.
That was never more evident than Friday, when Wallace could barely speak and kept his eyes downward during a six-minute interview with a group of reporters. He ultimately broke down in tears before his public relations representative led him away.
Anyone who follows Wallace on social media knows he’s going through a rough patch that extends beyond his on-track results. Wallace wouldn’t normally come into the media center, but it was his turn as part of NASCAR’s rotating driver availability this season. He just wasn’t up for it, saying his “mental game is kind of cloudy.”
“I’ll be damned if it all goes away when you get behind the wheel,” he said. “I guess 16 years of driving helps, but it’s tough.”
When we are dealing with sadness in life, most of us don’t have to get through the most difficult days while in the public eye. Wallace does. Did Wallace wish he could somehow sweep his emotions under the rug in order to prevent the world from seeing them?
“You see what you get now,” he said. “I’m on the verge of breaking down and I am what I am.”
With that, he couldn’t speak any further. The tears began to flow. SiriusXM reporter Claire B. Lang put her arm around Wallace to comfort him as he wept and the media session ended.
Fans sometimes view the drivers as larger-than-life, fictional characters engaged in a high-speed soap opera. Wallace is a reminder each of the drivers is just like the rest of us, with problems and struggles that money and fame can’t magically erase.
Erik Jones reflects
Four years ago this weekend, Erik Jones made his first Cup Series start. Kyle Busch was out of the car after breaking his legs in the Daytona Xfinity race that year, and young Jones was called upon to get into the No. 18 car at Kansas Speedway.
The only laps Jones had ever driven in a Cup car to that point were when he subbed for Denny Hamlin mid-race at Bristol a month earlier. Other than that, Kansas was the first time.
“I didn’t find out until real late that I was even going to drive the car that weekend,” Jones recalled. “My dad told me, ‘Just remember you don’t have to set the world on fire this weekend. There’s no expectations, you don’t have to go and try to win the race. As long as you run top-15, that’s a solid day.’”
But Jones was 18 years old with youthful exuberance and said he thought: “Well, I’m just going to go out and win.”
As it turned out, he actually had a shot. Jones said he had no nervousness and felt no pressure, and he raced his way into the top five. But while trying to pass Kevin Harvick, with Jimmie Johnson pressuring him, Jones wrecked.
“I was running the top and just put myself in a bad spot that — at the time — I didn’t really know was a bad spot,” Jones said. “I honestly think if I could run that race over again, we probably would have won it — knowing what I know now.”
But one of the special memories from that race is it came during a time when some of the Hall of Fame veterans from that era were still driving. Tony Stewart was in the race, as was Jeff Gordon — who started right next to Jones.
“(Gordon) started 11th and I started 12th,” Jones said. “I thought, ‘Man, this is pretty cool rolling around for pace laps and seeing your hero growing up.’ Now I’m racing side-by-side with him and that’s a kid’s dream.
“It’s cool to have those memories and they’re ones I’ll never forget. It would be cool some day to be able to tell young guys, ‘Hey, I got to race against those guys.'”