SPEEDWAY, Ind. – For most of Sunday’s race, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. had been cooperative combatants.
After all, they were the clear class of the field in the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400.
Under a gentlemen’s agreement arranged between drivers, crew chiefs and spotters, Busch or Truex would restart in the outside lane as the race leader, and whichever of the two was on the bottom lane would hold up the low line to make sure the leader could clear the field through the first and second corners.
The arrangement worked well until Lap 111, when the teams decided it was time to race for the win, with neither wanting to sacrifice track position. Truex, then the leader, chose the bottom lane for a restart, putting Busch on the outside.
As they raced side-by-side for the lead through the first corner, Truex’s No. 78 Toyota got loose, nicked the apron and slid sideways into Busch’s No. 18 Toyota. Both cars were destroyed, with Truex’s No. 78 erupting into flames as it sat against the outside wall.
Truex escaped without injury.
“I just got loose and wrecked him – totally my fault,” Truex said. “Didn’t really know what to expect in that position, and didn’t really realize that he was going to drive in that deep and suck me around. I will take the blame for that, and obviously it was my fault.
“I hate it for Kyle. He had a great car and we did as well, but that’s racing. Glad I was able to get out—fire was bad. I had no brakes and I had to run into the wall a second time just to get it to stop so I could get out. Fortunately, I’m okay and we’ll live to race another day.”
For Busch, whose winless streak extended to 36 races, it was another disappointment in a litany of frustrating outcomes.
“I guess we could have continued to play the teammate game and try to settle it on a green flag pit stop, but he could be that much faster than me and ‘yard’ me by three seconds on a run with the clean air,” said Busch, who led a race-high 87 laps in an attempt to win the Brickyard 400 for the third straight time. “Then I would never be able to get the opportunity to pass him back even if we had to settle it on a pit stop.
“That’s the way it goes. Just chalk it up to another one that we figure out how to lose these things by. It’s very frustrating, and I hate it for my guys. They build such fast Toyota Camrys and the Skittles Camry was really good again today. Had wanted to go out there and put ourselves in the record books for three in a row—but not happening.”