DARLINGTON, S.C. – Kyle Busch had a rough weekend in Bristol, but the 2008 Bojangles’ Southern 500 winner is looking to bounce back this weekend at Darlington Raceway.
As if crashing out of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 while leading wasn’t bad enough for Busch, his performance in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway didn’t have a much better result.
When Busch took the green flag in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race two weekends ago at Bristol, he spun off Turn 4 on Lap 2, and 14 other cars piled up in the mayhem. So many cars were involved in the crash that the pathway down the front stretch was blocked.
“I was trying to stay out of the glue, because I knew it was going to be slick to start with, and I got a little more into the glue that lap, and every lap I was going to try to work my way down,” Busch said. “The guys on the outside were kind of pinching you a little bit, and when I got to the glue, it slipped right out of the glue and back up the race track, and whoever was on my outside, I hit them in the door and went around.”
Despite significant damage to his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 M&M’s White Chocolate Toyota, Busch raced his way into the top-five with a little less than 100 laps to go. While battling Martin Truex Jr. for second-place, Busch made contact that sent Truex hard into the inside wall on the front stretch. Truex ricocheted and collected J.J. Yeley before hitting the outside wall.
“That was just a misjudgment on my behalf,” Busch said I” crashed the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.), so that was my bad totally. Totally misjudged that one just coming off the corner, and knowing there was still plenty of laps left, I wasn’t even in a hurry, and I just misjudged it by four or six inches, whatever it was, and I clipped him there and sent him for a ride. He knows that wasn’t intentional at all, and we’ve worked really, really, really, really well together these last two or three years, and that shouldn’t ruin anything between us.”
In the closing laps of the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Busch was well within position to challenge for the win, but contact with Chris Buescher cut a tire down. Busch crashed hard in Turn 3, bringing out the ninth and final caution on Lap 483 of the 500-lap race. Busch ended up finishing 20th.
“That’s not what we do,” Busch said. “We probably finished where we should have anyways, with as torn up as our race car is. We had a shot to be able to come back there and win the race realistically. If it wasn’t for getting mixed up with the 37 (Chris Buescher) and the 48 (Jimmie Johnson), if I could have got clear of them, I think I could have got to the front.
“But Monday morning quarterback also says that if we would have inherited fourth and not pitted on that last pit stop, then we might have been ahead of all that. I don’t know. We were certainly going to way overachieve tonight, but we just didn’t get to.”
While Busch’s performance in Bristol looked like a total disaster, it’s quite amazing that he and his team were even able to continue following the Lap 2 crash. The performance just proved that the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota team is in championship form and is ready for any challenge it might face. As the team heads into Darlington for the 69th running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500, look for Busch and his crew to be a team to reckon with before the checkered flag falls.
Last year, Busch piloted his Toyota to a second-place finish in the Bojangles’ Southern 500, just behind his teammate, Denny Hamlin. In 13 starts at the “Track Too Tough To Tame,” Busch has amassed a win, three top-five and eight top-10 finishes. The Las Vegas native has led 598 laps in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Darlington Raceway.
Busch leads Kevin Harvick in the series standings by 43 points. Harvick, however, is the only driver this year who has scored more playoff points than Busch. Harvick has 40 playoff points compared to Busch’ 35. No other driver is anywhere close to Busch and Harvick in regular-season points or playoff points. As the NASCAR playoffs are on the horizon and are set to get under way on Sept. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, look for Busch to settle for nothing less than a win at Darlington.