Kyle Busch won’t be defending his NASCAR Cup series title this season. But it wasn’t from a lack of effort.
Busch came into Sunday’s race on the ROVAL at Charlotte the final race of the Round of 12 below the cutline and winless.
He was in contention until near the end of Stage 2 when he was slowed after contact on a restart on lap 49. Busch was forced to pit under green. Then his Toyota made contact with the Chevy of Austin Dillon on lap 70 cutting down another tire. Using an alternate pit strategy however, Busch was able to make up ground.
A caution for debris on lap 86 saw his crew roll the dice and leave him out as the leaders pitted. Short of enough fuel to make it to the end, Busch would lead three laps before he was swallowed up by the field. He would run out of fuel with two laps to go, force to pit under green again and finished 30th.
“Just trying to get everything we could get,” Busch said. “You come into a race like this and you throw a couple Hail Mary’s and they rarely work, especially when you don’t have the car.
“That 9 ( race winner Chase Elliott) car is spectacular here and it was superfast. I followed him for a lot of laps trying to figure it out and he just gets smaller and smaller as he’s driving away.
Busch is now winless after 32 races, his last victory coming in the season finale last year at Homestead when he won his second title.
“I don’t know, it’s not just this race,” Busch said. “It’s a whole season and it’s a culmination of things that led to this and led to our elimination. We knew it coming into this round that this was going to be the hardest round for us to get through. Pretty much impossible and it was. We weren’t able to make up enough or get a win. We’ll just have to fight for a win here the rest of the year.”
Busch had predicted, albeit tongue in cheek, that with the way his season was going he would not advance past the Round of 12, that came true Sunday.
“As other sports greats would say, there’s many other drivers that would love to have a year that we’re having,” he said. “But it’s just frustrating to know how good we are and what we’re capable of and being champions from last year to not come out here and be able to succeed and be able to win. Fact of the matter, if we could win, we would be a heck of a lot better off. I knew this round was going to be trouble with the year we had. I was right.”