One year ago, NASCAR's 2004 champion was suspended from competition under what was characterized as a behavioral penalty.

The sanctioning body later rescinded its decision after the Delaware Attorney General failed to charge the driver with any wrongdoing.

"I just felt like the rug was wiped out from underneath me," Busch said. "And we're back. We're here with a good shot at winning. I was here with a good shot at winning last year. This is more for making up for lost time."

Busch, who's posted 15 top-five finishes at the 2.5-mile track including three second-place runs in the 500 (2003, 2005, 2008), will start fifth in the second Can-Am Duel couldn't bear to watch the Great American Race from the sidelines. When he returned to the facility in July, Busch piloted the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevy to a fifth-place finish.

Winning Daytona

Now, Busch is looking to add the Harley J. Earl trophy to his collection. Last year was the first time that the Daytona 500 field did not feature a Busch brother – Kurt or his sibling Kyle – since 2001.

And his speed bump at Daytona last February? Just another catalyst to move Busch forward.

"Well, we have a lot of things that can give you motivation," Busch said. "This year is no exception with the chance to go win the Daytona 500. It's right there in front of myself, Kyle, for his team being a championship-defending team, and then with Tony Gibson as my crew chief. He wants to win this thing again.

"We have so much motivation in all directions to be successful. Now we have to go out there and do it."

A few close calls with Victory Lane

Busch's inability to win at either Daytona or Talladega has grated on the driver. Certainly there have been ample opportunities — particularly throughout his career in the Daytona 500. While most drivers won't admit a track owes them anything, that's not Busch's sentiment at Daytona.

"I feel like the first few times when I did finish second was, I've got more to learn, I've got more to do, more things to understand about the race," Busch said. "Then the year (2008), I helped Ryan Newman win, that was my maturity as well as experience level combining for that decision to push him instead of trying to take a risk to go three-wide to take the win away from us both. So that was a big moment.

"Just haven't had cars that were capable of winning through the early 2010s. I think this year is the best year I've ever had with Tony Gibson, this whole Haas Automation and Monster Energy crew."

He also believes the key to improving his chances is taking a more aggressive approach in the draft with blocking along with choosing the right lane and drafting partner when it comes to crunch time.

"I'd go with a teammate or somebody that's won the 500 before," Busch said. "If you haven't won the 500, you're going to do whatever it takes to get around that guy in front of you to try to win it.

"At the end every man is for himself. You do trust teammates. I would trust Kyle, my brother for life, here. The way that it all works out here is every man is racing for himself."

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This article by Lee Spencer originally appeared on Motorsport.com, the world's leader in auto racing news, photos and video.​


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