Kurt Busch returns to Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway riding the prized Harley he picked up earlier this year when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series kicked off its season with the Daytona 500.
It’s slick and black and has just enough silver to give it the perfect shine. It’s coveted by everyone in Daytona and turns heads wherever it goes. It’s badass sitting still.
What it’s not is a motorcycle. No, Busch’s Harley is the Harley J. Earl, the trophy given to the winner of the Daytona 500.
In his 17th Daytona 500 back in February, Busch led only one lap but it was the only lap that mattered. A last-lap pass of Kyle Larson in turns one and two of the 2.5-mile oval netted Busch his first points-paying victory at Daytona and his first restrictor-plate win in the NASCAR Cup Series. Busch’s triumph in the Great American Race secured his 29th career Cup Series victory and arguably the biggest of his career.
Now the 38-year-old racer from Las Vegas, Nevada, is back in Daytona for the Coke Zero 400, round No. 17 on the marathon-like 36-race NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
He enters the Saturday night race with six top-10 finishes in his last eight Cup Series starts. While able to feast on his Daytona 500 win from four months ago, Busch returns to his greatest glory since winning the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series championship hungry for another win.
Tasting victory at Daytona is something Busch was familiar with even before his victory in the 500. He won the July 2012 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona after leading six times for a race-high 23 laps, but had to take the lead from Joey Logano on the final lap. Busch also owns two non-points wins at Daytona – the 2011 Budweiser Shootout and the 2011 Gatorade Duel qualifying race.
Looking back, they were all precursors to Busch’s Daytona 500 win. And as much as drivers look in the rearview mirror during a restrictor-plate race, they must also look forward, and ahead of Busch is another Daytona trophy.