Wednesday, Feb 01

Promising Run Turns into Disappointing Night for Busch

Kyle Busch looked to be in command just past the halfway point of Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C) Raceway.

But the driver of the No. 18 Doublemint® Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) suffered a loose wheel while leading, forcing him to make an unscheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 205 of the scheduled 367-lap distance. While the team rallied hard and climbed back to as high as seventh place, Busch was forced to settle for an 11th-place finish.

After starting 14th, Busch quickly picked off positions ahead of him at the start of the 500-mile race, working his way into the top-10 by lap 10, the top-five by lap 25, and all the way up to the second position following the first pit stop of the day on lap 37.

Busch patiently rode behind then-leader Kasey Kahne for the next 88 laps until quick service from his Doublemint team catapulted him into the lead on lap 125. The talented 26-year-old cruised out in front of the field until the aforementioned loose wheel forced him to pit road for an unscheduled green-flag stop on lap 205. The setback dropped Busch to 29th in the running order, one lap behind the leaders.

But Busch and his Doublemint team never gave up as he picked off positions quickly, moving up to 21st by lap 241. Busch caught a fortunate break when the caution waved on lap 243. As the first car one lap down when the caution came out, Busch was given a free pass back to the lead lap, per NASCAR rules.

From there, Busch continued to move his way up through the field, where cracking the top-15 by lap 264, the top-10 by lap 294, and found himself all the way up in eighth just as the caution waved again on lap 358. Crew chief Dave Rogers ordered Busch to pit road on lap 359 for right-side tires and fuel, and he restarted seventh on lap 365.

Shortly after that restart, Busch was racing hard with the Richard Childress Racing cars of Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer exiting turn four. Contact between Busch and Harvick sent Bowyer spinning into the inside SAFER barrier. The accident also damaged the cars of Busch and Harvick, who came to pit road to change four tires and prepare for the final green-white-checkered dash to the finish, during which Busch managed to rally for 11th.

“So, we were racing there on the last couple of laps through (turns) one and two, and I was following Ryan Newman on the bottom side,” Busch said of the lap-365 incident. “He was on the inside of (Kevin) Harvick coming off of turn two. It seemed like Harvick got a little loose, or slipped or something, and tried to protect himself from the wall. We came off of turn two really shallow, and he left about four feet between himself and the outside wall off of two. I was on his inside at that point and underneath the white line, trying to give him room, and we made contact off of two and, as we raced down the backstretch, we touched again.

“Getting into turn three, Harvick lifted early, and then he throttled back up, or let off the brake or something, and hit me getting into turn three and pushed me going through the corner there, where I got loose and was trying to protect my spot and was getting back to the gas. I was really slow off the corner where Harvick and (Clint) Bowyer got back to my inside at the exit. As we came off the corner, all three of us made contact and it got really tight. Bowyer spun out, obviously, and got into the inside wall, and Harvick and I – we couldn’t really get away from each other, and he ended up spinning at the end of the frontstretch. I just hate it for everyone on this Doublemint team. We deserved to bring home a better finish than we got, but it just didn’t work out that way.”

Busch’s JGR companions – Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry, and Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry – finished sixth and 35th, respectively.


TSC/Kyle Busch PR


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