There weren’t any fans in attendance at Darlington Raceway Wednesday night, and that might have been a good thing for Kyle Busch.
Busch and NASCAR’s most popular driver Chase Elliott were fighting for position with 20 laps to go in the NASCAR Cup series Toyota 500, NASCAR’s second Cup race back after postponing races due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Elliott had led 28 laps of the scheduled 228, and after pit stops late was racing for the win.
Coming out of turn 4 Busch tried to get behind Elliott’s Chevy. Instead, the front of Busch’s Toyota made contact with the rear of Elliott’s Chevy which was them sent careening into the inside wall. Elliott climbed out of the car and waited for the field to pass by under caution, displaying his middle finger to the car of Busch.
During the ensuing caution the rains that had plagued the event all night long returned. The field was soon brought to a stop. After several minutes, during which members of Elliott’s crew could be seen sitting on the pit wall near the stopped car of Busch. NASCAR officials eventually ordered the crew back over the wall just before declaring the race official and giving the win to Denny Hamlin. Busch was scored second, Elliott 38th.
Busch was confronted by Elliott’s crew chief Alan Gustafson. Gustafson was the crew chief for Kyle Busch when he raced at Hendrick Motorsports. The two had a discussion before going their separate ways. Gustafson was asked if that discussion had calmed the waters a bit.
“No; I mean ultimately he (Kyle Busch) made a mistake and I get it,” Gustafson said. “I don’t think he intentionally wrecked us, but you just get tired of coming out on the wrong end of those deals too often. I certainly feel like we were in position to win that race. Denny (Hamlin) was in trouble on old tires and we were going to clear Kyle. You get tired of getting ran over like that. His explanation I’m sure is accurate, but it doesn’t change it. All these guys work their tails off on this NAPA Chevy and they deserve to win a race.”
The normally brash and unreserved Busch took responsibility for the accident.
“There’s no question. I know I made a mistake and just misjudged the gap,” Busch said. “We were racing there with the 11 (Hamlin) and the 9 (Elliott) had a run on him and I knew he was there and I knew I needed to get in line as quickly as I could and in doing so, I watched him and his momentum going by me and I tried to look up in the mirror and see where Harvick was (behind) and get in and I just misjudged it. made a mistake and clipped the nine there and spun him in the wall. I hate it for him and his guys.
“I’ve got too many friends over there on that team to do anything like that on purpose. I’ve raced Chase since he was a kid and never had any issues with him whatsoever. It was just a mistake on my part and we’ll just have to deal with it later on.”
Later Busch said he would reach out to Elliott.
“Him and I have always had a cordial relationship over the years,” Busch said. “Certainly, we’re not near as close, we’re not friends like you’d say him and Blaney are or anything like that.
“I’ve known him since he was 12 or 13 years old, been racing with him ever since then, late models, super late models, trucks, Xfinity cars, all that sort of stuff.
“Obviously I just made a mistake, misjudged the gap, sent him into the wall. That was entirely unintentional. Yeah, I mean, I’ll definitely reach out to him and tell him I’m sorry, tell him I hate it that it happened. All I can do. That doesn’t change the outcome of the night.
“I hate it for him and his guys.”
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