Chip Ganassi’s tenure in NASCAR will not end with a Cup Series championship. Kurt Busch, the only driver from the Ganassi stable to qualify for the postseason, was eliminated in the first round Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Busch, a six-time winner at Bristol, was surprisingly never a factor and at times was the lowest running playoff driver. The No. 1 Chevrolet’s quiet night ended with a 19th-place finish.
Busch did not score points in either stage at Bristol. The highest he ran throughout the night was 14th.
“Really disappointing effort today,” Busch said after missing the next round by six points. “That was not a championship-type effort. We missed it big time.”
The 2004 series champion entered Bristol holding down the final transfer spot on the playoff grid, but with no margin. Busch and Alex Bowman were tied for the final spot, with Busch holding the tiebreaker. A DNF last weekend at Richmond Raceway because of a flat left-rear tire took away Busch’s margin to the cutline.
“We had bad luck last week, and we have no shot at a championship this year,” he said. “We have to race for pride, dignity, and honor for the next few weeks. The team is shutting down, and we’re eliminated early. That’s not the way we wanted this to go.
“Maybe we can crawl our way back up to a fifth to 10th range in points. But tonight was not a night to miss the setup.”
Busch’s three finishes in the first round were sixth (Darlington), 37th (Richmond), and 19th (Bristol). It is the third time that Busch has been eliminated in the Round of 16 since the elimination format began in 2014.
Ganassi revealed in late June he had sold his NASCAR operation to Justin Marks and was leaving the sport at season’s end. Busch won at Atlanta in July to qualify for the playoffs, the organization’s only win this season to date.