Kyle Busch finished sixth Saturday night in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race in his first event since breaking his right leg and left foot in a crash nearly three months ago.
After getting penalized for speeding on pit road and later having to pit to fix a loose wheel, Busch worked his way back toward the front but was never in contention during the final 10-lap segment that ended with Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin, taking the $1 million top prize.
Busch never led a lap in his ill-handling car, but the run at Charlotte Motor Speedway was a positive step in his return from a scary accident.
"I'll be sore for a couple days, just muscles that haven't been woken up quite like this in a little while," Busch said. "It's nothing new. Typically, I get that in the beginning of the year anyway and it takes a few weeks to get warmed up.
"Being out of the race car the longest I've ever been in my career, it's a wakeup call."
Busch said he was comfortable in his No. 18 Toyota and it served as a good tuneup for the Coca-Cola 600, part of a busy upcoming week that includes the scheduled birth of his son. His wife, Samantha, is set to be induced Monday.
"Looking forward to the days leading up to next week because our first son is coming," Busch said.
Busch was injured Feb. 21 when he crashed into a concrete wall during an Xfinity Series race at Daytona. He missed the Daytona 500 the day after and the next 10 races.
Busch eyed returning at Charlotte, where he lives. Busch returned to the track for the first time Friday for practice, and while he still moved gingerly, he felt good behind the wheel before Saturday night's race.
The All-Star race allowed Busch to ease back. The race was only 110 laps and no points were on the line.
Next weekend will be much tougher. The Coca-Cola 600 is a 400-lap race that's NASCAR longest.
"I felt like I got of the car after 100 laps and I'm fine," Busch said. "Am I going to die out after 200 or 300? I don't know, but the plan is to the full distance."
NASCAR granted Busch a waiver that would make him eligible for the season-ending Chase for the Sprint Cup championship if he qualifies. That would require him to likely win a race and finish in the top 30 in the standings.