Kurt Busch said he “flat out got cleaned out” to bring an end to his championship hopes at ISM Raceway.
On lap 270 Busch was hit flush in the left side by Denny Hamlin coming off Turn 2. The contact sent Busch into the outside wall, and the two stayed hooked together before coming off the wall and starting a crash that also collected playoff contender Chase Elliott.
Busch needed to win the Can-Am 500 or beat Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick on points to advance to the Championship 4. Damage from the accident was too much to race with, and Busch retired from the event.
“Erik Jones was on my inside when we restarted, and I just wanted to make sure I didn’t slip through the new [Turns] 1 and 2, and if I could have been to somebody’s outside off 2 then I thought we had a good shot of maintaining the lead and I just got cleaned out,” said Busch. “I flat out got cleaned out.
“I thought it was the right decision staying out. I’m not going to look back on it. If the rule earlier in the race on the pit road of passing the pace car (for which he was penalized on lap 136) is black and white, I just need to get brushed up on my rulebook. I didn’t gain anything by doing what I did other than just digging from behind all day.”
Jones, Busch, and Hamlin had stayed out under the previous caution and were sitting first through third on the restart when the accident occurred. When the team diagnosed his day as over, Busch apologized to his team over the radio before parking his Ford on pit road and climbing out. Sitting on pit wall, team co-owner Tony Stewart could be seen speaking to Busch.
“He was just helping me out as a driver, owner; that’s what Tony Stewart does,” Busch said of the conversation. “He’s a good individual that knows how to pat somebody on the back and create clarity from the outside on what went on because I only see what happens from the inside of the car.”
It was the second time Stewart’s voice was needed. Busch had led 52 laps and was leading coming down pit road when he was penalized one lap for passing the pace car on lap 136. After Stewart radioed Busch to tell him, “Kurt, take a deep breath,” Busch got the free pass under the lap 230 caution period.
From there, Busch worked his way through the field until Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s crash brought out the caution on lap 264, when he stayed on track.
“It was a really good year for our Haas Automation Ford,” Busch said.
“Thanks to Monster Energy and everybody that put their talent into that 41 car. I just didn’t get the job done to get us to Homestead.”