For the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career, Kyle Busch was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs after a catastrophic engine failure Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Busch fell out of the race on lap 270 and said there was no warning of an issue. He missed advancing into the Round of 12 by two points after finishing 34th. Austin Cindric, who finished multiple laps down in the 20th position but survived a wild night, overtook Busch for the final transfer spot in the waning laps of the Bass Pro Shops Night Race.
“Absolutely devastated,” Busch said of the emotion. “Just unfortunate circumstances, obviously, and another engine failure this week. Obviously, we were already in a hole, and this puts us in a deeper one. I can’t stress enough just how much I feel for my guys, the ones that are out there pouring their souls into this effort and this opportunity for us to go race for championships. It’s not fair to them.
“I hate for those guys and Rowdy nation and M&M’s and Interstate Batteries. We all want better, we all should have better, and it’s just not coming to us right now.”
The exact issue with Busch’s engine is not yet clear. He and teammate Martin Truex Jr. both had DNFs, but Truex, who used Kevin Harvick’s assessment from two weeks ago about “[crappy Next Gen parts],” had a powering steering issue.
“No, that’s completely different from our situation,” Busch said. “They’re talking about the steering rack and steering parts and pieces that you’re mandated by NASCAR to run. Our issue is a Toyota issue.”
Bristol was the second engine failure Busch suffered in the three-race round. He also failed to finish the playoff opener at Darlington Raceway – where he also finished 34th – because of a valve train failure. His best finish in the round was 26th at Kansas Speedway.
The two-time series champion made the playoffs because of a win at Bristol, which fell his way when Tyler Reddick was spun on the last lap by Chase Briscoe. Busch barely edged Reddick to the finish line.
He has six DNFs on the season and has led 624 laps. In his television interview Saturday night, Busch said he was flabbergasted after his latest issue. He didn’t deny it’s just been that kind of season, replying simply, “I would say yeah, that’s a pretty safe statement.”