Kyle Busch was anything but concerned after hearing about Aric Almirola’s threat for the final few weeks of the NASCAR Cup Series season.
“Sounds good,” said Busch after the First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Busch and Almirola got together off Turn 4 on lap 363 to start an accident that also collected Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Preece. Racing tight through Turns 3 and 4, Busch’s No. 18 Toyota and Almirola’s No. 10 Ford got hooked together coming off the corner, and both spun toward the inside of the track. Almirola hit the inside wall and didn’t finish the race.
“He chopped me getting down into (Turn) 3,” Almirola said. “I tried to squeeze in front of him in the spring on one of the restarts, and he about wrecked me in Turn 3, and it was returned to him, and he didn’t like it. He run me up over the curb, and we got hooked together and ruined our day.
“Frustrated. We got three more weeks, and I’m going to make it hell for him.”
Busch’s view was slightly different: “He ran over me, so I chopped him, and we got hooked together.”
The former Martinsville winner and 2015 series champion had little to offer after finishing 14th in the first race in the Round of 8. Busch never seemed pleased with the handling of his Joe Gibbs Racing Camry, fighting a tight condition in Stage 1 where he finished ninth. In Stage 2, where Busch finished seventh, he was still offering feedback about the car needing helping through the corners.
Following the contact with Almirola, Busch needed repairs, and the team had to cut off the left front fender. Another caution a few laps later brought Busch back down pit road for additional work on the car. He never regained the track position lost from the initial accident when he was running inside the top 10.
Martinsville was Busch’s fourth finish outside the top 10 in seven playoff races. Earlier in the weekend, Busch expressed frustration at how the season has been playing out as his team hasn’t had a clean race in the postseason.
“To say it was a disappointing day for our M&M’s Halloween Camry is an understatement,” Busch said. “We just can’t get through these playoff races without an issue.”