Kyle Busch has uncharacteristic off day in Chicago

JOLIET, ILLINOIS - JUNE 30: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Red White & Blue Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on June 30, 2019 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

What a difference a year makes.  Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch came to Chicagoland Speedway as the defending winner of the 400-mile race.  He won last year’s race after a somewhat controversial last lap bump and run on Kyle Larson.  It was a move that made the highlight reels and was shown several times this past weekend.

Rarely is Busch out of contention for a race win, but at Chicagoland his team seemed to struggle all weekend with the Toyota. Busch qualified 17th, but after winning from 16th place last year there was still some hope for a repeat win or at least a decent finish.

On lap 26 however, Busch got into the wall; then on lap 77 Clint Bowyer blew a right rear tire and nearly spun out making contact with Busch in the process. Busch pitted and the team made repairs but lost a lap and came back out 21st.  He made his lap up and was running in 10th and moving forward when contact with Joey Logano again forced him to the pits. He again went a lap down, but yet again made his lap up.

While again running 10th on lap 238 of 267, smoke began to fill the cockpit due to damaged crush panels. He pitted on lap 239 with he and his crew thinking the car was burning rubber pieces from the earlier damage and would flame up when he stopped.  Fortunately it didn’t and the crew was able to make repairs, but with so few laps left, Busch wasn’t able to stage a rally and had to settle for a 22nd place finish.

“That wasn’t the outcome we had hoped for with our Skittles America Mix Toyota,” Busch said. “The car had been a struggle all weekend. We thought we were set up to be able to get a solid finish, but it didn’t work out.”

Greg Engle