- With Busch at the Wheel, ‘Hot Laps’ Highlight During Coke Zero Sugar 400 Media Day
- Military Veterans – including Honorary Pace Truck Driver – Get Special High-Banks Instruction
- Event Underscores Longstanding Link Between DIS and U.S. Military
Kurt Busch returned to Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday and immediately became the most sought-after driving instructor around as he helped prepare retired U.S. Army Col. Hal Kushner for his July 6 duties as Honorary Pace Truck Driver for the 61st annual Coke Zero Sugar 400.
“This is a great honor,” Kushner said. “I’m so flattered. I know this [race] honors the military and in particular Medal of Honor recipients. To be recognized by my own community, recognized by the Speedway, it’s the just a highlight of my life.”
Busch, the 2017 DAYTONA 500 champion and the 2004 champion of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, visited DIS to promote the Coke Zero Sugar 400, the annual midseason, midsummer stock car classic held under the lights at the 2.5-mile tri-oval. After “coaching up” Kushner – a local ophthalmologist who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and was announced as the pace truck driver on Tuesday – Busch gave special “hot lap” rides to media members in attendance.
“I’m really honored, Hal, to be standing here with you and to hear your story,” Busch said. “That this is a big lifetime achievement moment, yes, it’s special to be here at Daytona. I couldn’t agree more with Daytona on who they chose to be the Honorary Pace Truck Driver.”
When Busch returns for the Coke Zero Sugar 400, he will be one of the pre-race favorites as he’s a seasoned superspeedway racer. If he were to win the 160-lap, 400-mile event, Busch could become only the 10th driver to win all Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at DIS (The Clash At DAYTONA, Duel At DAYTONA, DAYTONA 500 and Coke Zero Sugar 400). Other drivers to accomplish this feat are Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Dale Jarrett and Jimmie Johnson.
“I love coming to Daytona in July,” Busch said. “The beach is always calling your name. I didn’t realize there’s only been [nine] drivers that have won The Clash, a Duel, the (DAYTONA) 500 and the (Coke Zero Sugar) 400 and I’m just missing that 400, so that’s even more motivation to come here and try to win the race in a few weeks. It’s a matter of getting the car right. I feel like now we’re coming back to some of these tracks for a second time with the Ganassi team, that’s going to help us grab another gear, so to speak, and have more shots at winning.”
In addition to promoting one of NASCAR’s premier events, Busch’s appearance helped showcase the Veteran Tickets Foundation – Vet Tix – which provides free tickets to various events for military personnel, both currently serving and veterans. Busch is involved with Vet Tix on a season-long initiative, the KB100 Ticket Giveaway which offers 100 tickets for veterans for each race on the 2019 Monster Energy Series schedule. More than 50 Vet Tix guests invited by the speedway were on hand Tuesday, participating in a tour of the speedway, a question-and-answer session with Busch while also joining the NASCAR star for some hot laps.
Tuesday marked the continuation of the long-running relationship that DIS has enjoyed with the U.S. military, especially during the Coke Zero Sugar 400, which has coincided with the Independence Day holiday celebration since 1959.
Tickets for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 Weekend on July 4-6 and all Daytona International Speedway events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat, and by downloading Daytona International Speedway’s mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.