It looked like Kyle Busch was sitting pretty late in Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Until his engine went boom.
After a cycle of green flag pit stops, Busch was running second behind his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. With just over 30 laps to go, the No. 19 car reported a power steering issue before he experienced high temperatures. Soon after Busch got by his teammate for the lead, Truex went behind the wall, ending his shot at redemption from missing the playoffs.
On lap 340, Cody Ware pounded the outside wall — for a second time — to bring out the race’s ninth caution. With all cars hitting pit road, the No. 18 team did its job, getting Busch out of the pits first, ahead of Erik Jones.
Under caution is when Busch’s night went awry.
The No. 18 Toyota blew an engine — Busch’s first blown engine since the 2020 Daytona 500 — while circulating at pace car speed. It knocked Busch from the lead to his eventual 30th-place finishing position.
“Engine broke,” Busch told NBC Sports. “It‘s unfortunate circumstances for us tonight. The guys did a great job, brought a really fast M&M‘s Toyota Camry. Real proud of the effort.
“All of the stuff the guys have done and gone through, just all the news and everything going on through the year. They‘ve dug in and never gave up and they continue. Had a great car and don‘t come out with anything to show for it. That‘s what I really, really hate about it.”
Busch led six times for a race-high 155 laps. It’s the most laps he’s led in a single race since the fall race at Bristol in 2020 (159). He still hasn’t visited Victory Lane at Darlington since 2008, his first year with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Had the No. 18 car went on to win, Busch would have advanced to the Round of 12 in the postseason. By dropping to 30th, unofficially, he sits 11th on the playoff grid, just eight points above the cutline.
Busch added, “The sun will come up tomorrow.”
The Cup Series heads to Kansas Speedway next weekend, where Busch led 18 laps and finished third in May. Kurt Busch won that race and Toyota put all six of its teams in the top 10 for the first time since 2017.
After earning just two top-10 finishes in his first 14 starts at Kansas, Busch has 12 such finishes in his last 15 starts, including a pair of wins. Last spring, he was the beneficiary of a green-white-checkered finish go wrong for Kyle Larson after the No. 5 Chevrolet dominated the race.