The worlds of Marshawn Lynch and Kyle Busch collided in more ways than one Sunday in Las Vegas.
The NFL star was in attendance as the honorary pace car driver before the South Point 400, the first race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Before fulfilling his obligations, the Super Bowl XLVIII winner with the Seattle Seahawks, met Busch, a fan of that game’s losing team the Denver Broncos, and the two swapped helmets.
At the end of the night, Busch took a page out of Lynch’s interview playbook.
“I’m just here so I don’t get fined,” Busch said three times at the post-race media bullpen.
Busch finished 19th after a long, frustrating day at his home track. Entering as the number one seed in the playoffs, his race went sour early when he hit the Turn 2 wall after the No. 18 Toyota appeared to break loose on him. Ultimately, the incident forced him to pit for repairs on Lap 11, which eventually put him two laps down in the race.
However, Busch wound up back in contention when he took the wave around to get back on the lead lap at the end of Stage 2. A caution for older brother Kurt Busch crashing on Lap 189 then gave Kyle the opportunity to pit for fresh tires, and he was back inside the top 10 by Lap 208.
“Nope,” he replied when asked if he was happy to have come back after the early damage.
Any hopes of salvaging the night with a decent finish ended when Busch ran into the back of Garrett Smithley in Turns 1 and 2. The car damaged even more, Busch told his team he might end up in the wall.
“Don’t know,” Busch said of what happened with Smithley, who was driving the No. 52 for Rick Ware Racing.
“Killed it,” he described of the impact to his car after the contact.
Busch offered a “don’t care” about his overall chances in the playoffs and said, “nope, can’t pass there,” when asked how he felt about going to Richmond where he won last season.
Caught by NBC Sports before he left pit road, Busch offered additional thoughts on his night.
“I was told he (Smithley) was going to go high, thought he was going to go high, he went middle because I thought he was going to go high, and killed our day. I don’t know. Should have run fourth probably, but instead 19th.
“We’re the top echelon of motorsports and we’ve got guys that have never won late model races running out here on the race track. It’s pathetic. They don’t know where to go, so what else do you do?”
According to Smithley, there was a chance for Busch to use his speed more wisely.
“I watched the video, I held my line,” Smithley said. “The 24 (William Byron) went under me and the 88 (Alex Bowman) went to the outside of me. He (Kyle Busch) has a faster car and could have gone around.”
Busch, who has 45 playoff points from his strong regular season, fell to fourth in the standings, 19 behind new leader and teammate Martin Truex Jr., who won the race.
“It’s pathetic to have to lean on insurance,” Busch told NBCSN. “My premiums are going to go up.”