Kyle Busch is now 0-for-15 in the Daytona 500 after an engine issue forced him to make an early exit Monday evening.
Busch was leading when smoke began to trail from his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. At first, the team questioned whether it was a tire rub before Busch clarified it was terminal. As the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion fell off the pace, a 19-car accident occurred on the backstretch on Lap 185; the race was under caution when the engine expired, sending Busch to the garage with a 34th-place finish.
“Right there coming out of (Turn) 4, when we were leading and guys were kind of switching from the bottom to the top — that’s when I got warning that it was starting to go away — and then through the tri-oval, it let go more, and that’s when [Joey] Logano was all over me,” said Busch. “I couldn’t get out of the way fast enough.
“Overall, it’s just a shame. I really hate it for all my guys. I really hate it for Joe Gibbs Racing. You come off pit road after the final stop, and you are leading the thing — it’s kind of your shot to win, all you have to do it is make sure that you keep everyone else behind you.”
Busch had cycled to the top spot with less than 25 laps to go. Although he initially led a small group that was single file, the field came back together inside 20 laps to go, and the race took a turn with the first big accident followed by Busch’s retirement.
Busch led twice for 14 laps. A two-time series champion with 56 career wins, Busch has won on every active track in the Cup Series as well as crown jewel events like the Coca-Cola 600 and the Brickyard 400. However, he has one of the most prolonged Daytona 500 droughts among active drivers.
“We’ve been in that spot I don’t know how many times, and I guess we will just keep going down in history of finding new ways to lose it,” said Busch. “I know there is another guy who has done that before [Dale Earnhardt], and he was pretty popular.
“I don’t know. It sucks to be in that conversation, but we will go on another year.”