Twelve hours after celebrating his DAYTONA 500 victory in Daytona International Speedway’s Gatorade Victory Lane, the newest champion of "The Great American Race" was still processing the defining moment of his NASCAR career.
"It’s surreal," the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said Monday morning, during the annual Champion’s Breakfast in the Speedway’s Bill France Room. "Wins are hard to come by … but to win the DAYTONA 500, it’s hard to put into words. It’s beyond belief, really.
"As a kid you watch this race on TV and you live the experiences with the drivers who win the race or lose the race. And after racing in this race for 16 years [myself] now and having it go 16 different ways, when you win it, it erases all those memories and now you have this permanent memory of being able to drive into victory lane with the winning car."
Busch indeed was 0-for-15 in the DAYTONA 500 coming into Speedweeks 2017, but he also had three DAYTONA 500 runner-up finishes (2003, ’05, ’08) to his credit. Busch also is a former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, having won that title in 2004. Since then, his career has traveled to both peaks and valleys.
Peaks and valleys are now history. The DAYTONA 500 is summit material.
"I’m a survivor,’ Busch said. "I feel like I’ve pulled the sword from the stone. We’ve conquered Daytona."
During the Champion’s Breakfast, DIS President Chip Wile presented championship jackets to Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner (with Tony Stewart) Gene Haas and crew chief Tony Gibson, a Daytona Beach native; a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watch to Busch; the Harley J. Earl DAYTONA 500 championship trophy to Haas; and the Cannonball Baker champion crew chief trophy to Gibson. In addition, Wile and Busch unveiled the logo for the 60th annual DAYTONA 500 on Feb. 18, 2018.
Another DAYTONA 500 tradition continued Monday as the DAYTONA 500 champion car began its one-year showcasing in the DIS Ticket and Tours Building residence. Yearly, the winning car is brought in direct from Gatorade Victory Lane. The goal is to allow fans to see the car in all its race-mode authenticity. That mission was accomplished with Busch’s No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford. The car reflects the intense battle waged Sunday, with dents, dings, tire rubs and duct tape. There’s even a huge chuck of infield sod on the hood, which flew up and landed there during Busch’s post-race donuts in the grass.
Following photos of Busch and the entire Stewart-Haas team with the No. 41, the new champion placed one foot and both hands in cement, then carefully signed his name on the square that will be added to the DAYTONA 500 Champion’s Walk of Fame outside the Ticket and Tours Building.
Another tradition: the annual whirlwind high-profile media tour for the champion. Busch left for New York City after the breakfast for two days of media activity that includes FOX News, Race Hub on FOX, NASCAR America on NBC and ESPN’s SportsCenter on Monday; and Live! With Kelly, SiriusXM and Game Set Max on FOX on Tuesday. The media tour will continue in Atlanta on Thursday with stops at The Weather Channel and CNN Headline News.
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