One was sort of a dark horse the other a favorite coming into this year’s NASCAR’s Playoffs. After Kansas Sunday both are now nearing elimination.
After pointing his way into the top 16, Kurt Busch won in Las Vegas to secure a spot in the Round of 8 and followed that up with a fourth place on the ROVAL. Suddenly the 2004 champion was being talked about as a definite contender.
That all changed Sunday.
Busch was running in the top five for much of the race, but on lap 193 of 267, his Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy suddenly began to lose power. Busch slowed. While running on the track and trying to diagnose the issue for his crew, the engine gave up and he was out of the race by lap 199 finishing 38th.
“Yeah, usually there’s no warning,” Busch said of the engine failure. “Everything is so buttoned up these days in the engine department. I haven’t seen an engine problem in years. No fault of anybody at Hendrick engines. We’re running hard here.”
As the series leaves Kansas and heads to Texas, Busch is at the bottom of the standings, 73 points away from the cutoff.
“Having an engine failure in the Playoffs – it’s just like a huge parachute that slows you up,” Busch said. “We’ll pack that parachute up, throw it away and we’ll go to Texas to win. We knew we were going to have to win either here or Texas. Martinsville, we have a shot at it, too. The odds are stacked against us, but hey, we’re in the top-eight for a reason.”
The say started off badly for Martin Truex Jr. His Toyota failed pre-race inspection three times and he was forced to start at the rear of the field. He was able to charge through the field and was inside the top 10 by lap 47. He would earn points in both Stages but despite his early speed could only manage a ninth-place finish.
“That’s about all we had,” Truex said. “We were eighth in both stages and then ninth at the end. We didn’t really have much more than that. If we could have got some track position at times, the really long runs we were strong. Just restarts were really tough to fend people off. We just didn’t quite have the short run speed. Missed it a little bit there with it being so cool out today, I guess. Just didn’t have what we hoped to have.”
Truex leaves Kansas seventh in the standings 31 points out and will need a win to make it into the final four. But he said he has a great deal of confidence heading to the next two rounds at Texas and Martinsville, where he scored his only race this season to earn his spot in the playoffs.
“I know we can do it,” Truex said. “Just a matter of hitting it right really. We’ve not hit it right in a while. We’re good enough to win at least and we’ve been close. We’ve been second, third, fourth a lot of times and today, ninth in unacceptable for us. That’s the way it goes and that’s racing. This stuff is hard. We’ll go back to work. I know we can win at one of the next two, we just have to hit it right.”