Kyle Busch was on the verge of scoring stage points in the opening stage of Sunday‘s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway until he backed into the wall on lap 74.
After powering to the top five, Busch thought he had a right front tire going flat for multiple laps. He faded to eighth after going wide in Turns 1 and 2, likely picking up dirt on his tires.
The No. 8 Chevrolet seemed to recover until it snapped around on Busch a few laps later. Busch would finish the race in 34th, only ahead of his Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon and Todd Gilliland, both of whom had wheels fall off in the first stage. He would be credited with a total of three points.
“I have no idea,” Busch told NBC Sports of what happened to his No. 8 Chevrolet. “It felt really good when we came off of pit road after that green-flag stop. The car had good grip in it. We had those couple of yellows back-to-back and we restarted on the outside. I felt like I had a flat right front (tire) and I was going to come to pit road. I second-guessed it and said ‘I don‘t think so, man. It‘s just something is wrong. Something isn‘t right, but it‘s not a flat‘. And just all on its own, just turned into the bottom of the race track in turn one and it just swapped ends on me. That‘s the rear, not the front, not having grip. So, I just don‘t know.”
Busch made the trip back to the No. 8 team‘s pit box while driving for over a mile in reverse. The Randall Burnett-led team, which was the defending winner at Texas, assessed the damage and considered it unrepairable.
Entering the Round of 12 sitting sixth on the playoff grid, Busch needed a solid day. Instead, he was the first playoff driver out of the race, though a handful of his championship competitors experienced woes of their own. Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney were involved in late accidents and didn‘t complete the full distance.
Texas was a missed opportunity for Busch, as he felt the No. 8 car was a viable threat to compete inside the top 10. That would have put him in a solid points position entering Talladega, a track he has a love-hate relationship with. With other playoff drivers having late-race miscues, Busch‘s deficit is much more manageable than it looked for the majority of the race, 17 points below the elimination line.
“I felt like our car was for sure a top-five or top-10 car,” he said. “I just said it two laps before that — I got up on the high side and was like, ‘You know what, I just need to stop and just run the bottom, make laps here, just finish the stage and it swaps ends on me.”
The Round of 12 continues at Talladega Superspeedway next weekend and concludes at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval the following week. Busch won at Talladega in the spring — his first attempt in an RCR car. He was also in contention to win this year‘s Daytona 500 and has four straight top 10 finishes on drafting tracks.