A family affair: Kurt Busch's mom reflects on his Daytona 500 win

After winning the Daytona 500, Kurt Busch made one phone call — to his parents.

A family affair: Kurt Busch's mom reflects on his Daytona 500 win
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, pulls into victory lane after winning the Daytona 500
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Race winner Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford celebrate
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, celebrates his victory with his team
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane with team co-owner Tony Stewart after winning
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, takes the checkered flag in front of Ryan Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing Ford and A.J. Allmendinger, JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota after crashing
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, celebrates his win with his team
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet with Ashley Van Metre
The name of Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford on the Daytona 500 trophy
Kurt Busch with Ashley Van Metre
Car detail of Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Car detail of Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Car detail of Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford

The sacrifices Tom and Gaye Busch have made have produced not one, but two NASCAR Cup champions — a feat equaled in the sport only by the Labonte family.

Traditionally, the Buschs would be with their sons for Daytona Speedweeks. But on Sunday, they were home in North Carolina, where Tom Busch was recovering from back surgery. Surrounded by friends at their own Daytona 500 party, Gaye Busch could not hold back her emotions as she watched the black No. 41 Haas Automation Ford take the checkered flag.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Gaye Busch told motorsport.com by phone. “For any driver, it’s such a goal to achieve. And when the last lap was coming, we were all standing up and cheering. Then the tears started flowing. I was so happy for him, so proud.

“It’s been a long time. We’ve all been waiting for this. He’s been the bridesmaid for so many years. He kept finishing second. It’s such an honor to accomplish this, and we’re just so thrilled for him.”

What Kurt said when he called his mother

Gaye didn’t want to bother her son during the post-race. She knew a text message would be lost among the notes from well-wishers. When Kurt called her around 11:30p.m., on the way to the post-race celebration at Razzles, he described the closing laps and compared the experience to the family’s humble racing beginnings back in Las Vegas.

“He said, ‘Mom, I can’t believe the rear view mirror fell off. It reminded me of the Dwarf days (driving Dwarf cars in Las Vegas). They didn’t have rear view mirrors,’” Gaye recounted. “He goes, ‘With you and Dad not being there, you were with me. You guys were with me in the car, because it didn’t have a rear view mirror. I kept telling myself, focus and go fast. That’s all I kept doing.’

“We laughed and I said, ‘That’s true.’ That’s how he started driving — with no rear view mirror. So it was just icing on the cake that he finished this way. I was so pumped up last night. I couldn’t sleep.”

Dealing with the dangers of plate racing

Busch, 38, understands his mother’s trepidation every time he and his brother Kyle climb in their race cars. That tension rises at restrictor-plate tracks, understandably following the younger Busch’s wreck at Daytona in 2015. He sustained a compound fracture to his right leg, broke his left foot and missed 11 races. On Sunday, Kyle Busch wrecked after 103 laps.

“For years, my mom has always had a displeasure for Daytona and Talladega because of the plate racing and that you’re a victim of circumstance a lot of times when somebody has an issue and it wipes out a bunch of cars,” Kurt Busch said.

“That nightmare came true with Kyle getting hurt here a couple of years ago. She just always thought that Daytona and Talladega were the toughest on her boys and she just wanted us to come home.

“So when I called her, I felt like I had just placed the sword in the stone. I said, “We conquered it! We conquered Daytona!’ She was crying, of course, and just so happy that I was safe and I can’t wait to see her.”

How wife Ashley Van Metre has changed Kurt

And Gaye Busch knows her son is in good hands. During the off-season, Kurt married Ashley Van Metre. Gaye Busch says her son has never been happier.

“She balances him out,” Busch said. “She knows how to settle him down. She is very calming. I’ve never see her get angry. She never says a bad word about anybody. She is the sweetest thing. I don’t know anyone else out there like that.

“You know how drivers are. They get all worked up. Their adrenaline is going. He’ll be having a bad day and come back to the motor coach and then he sees her. And it’s like flipping on a lightswitch. He automatically gets calm. It’s just so awesome to see. Their relationship is growing every day. And it makes us so happy to see that Kurt is finally happy. He’s put so much of the bad behind him.”

The winning of the Daytona 500 is a culmination of a banner year for Kurt Busch. The long-time Chicago Cubs fan watched his team win its first World Series since 1908. He married Van Metre on Jan. 7 in St. Barts. The following week, he held a reception for friends and family at the Breakers in Palm Beach with Aerosmith providing the entertainment.

While he started Daytona Speedweeks with a wreck 16 laps into the Clash, Busch ended NASCAR’s opener with the big prize — the Harley J. Earl trophy. 

Eyes on the championship

Yes, Gaye Busch is biased but she hopes this is finally her son’s year. After witnessing the resolve of Kyle Busch’s return from injury to 2015 championship, her mother’s intuition is sensing another comeback for Kurt.

“For Kyle to accomplish what he did, it still brings chills to me,” Gaye Busch said of her younger son’s NASCAR Cup title. “No one could have ever written any of that. No one. I never expected him to even go back into the car until July. He said, ‘Oh no. I’m going to be there in May.’ I was like, ‘There’s no way.’ And for him to go out and win the championship, it was mind-blowing. Unbelievable. And now for Kurt to win the Daytona 500, I’m just speechless. What they’ve accomplished is so gratifying. I’m grateful. I’m honored. And I’m very blessed to have such two talented young men. 

“Kurt really has the biggest heart. People don’t realize the big hearts NASCAR drivers have. Kurt, Kyle and all of his foundations, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart. The perspective of the race fans, I don’t think they see that as much as they should because these guys really, really do help out a lot of people. I’m honored to see that with both of my boys.”

shares
comments
Analysis: Daytona 500 victory "makes it all worth it" for Tony Gibson

Previous article

Analysis: Daytona 500 victory "makes it all worth it" for Tony Gibson

Next article

Viewership for 2017 Daytona 500 up from last year

Viewership for 2017 Daytona 500 up from last year
Load comments
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020
Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture Prime

Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture

“You can’t hear me? Hey n*****” Those fateful words uttered by Kyle Larson, spoken into his esports headset on April 12, were directed at his sim racing spotter – but instead they quickly became amplified around the world via social media, including his own Twitch stream.

NASCAR Cup
Oct 29, 2020