Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch has explained how he “lost control” of the NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington, which was eventually won by Erik Jones after a late showdown.
Busch chased down Jones in the final laps of the race but was managing wear on his right-front tyre after coming out behind his Stewart-Haas Racing rival after the final round of pitstops.
On several occasions, Busch came close to passing Jones, but the JGR driver hit the wall with three laps remaining and collided with it again a lap later.
Busch would then finish third behind Jones and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, having led laps in the third stage before a late caution returned him to the field in third.
“We kind of lost control of the race there on pitroad when we came down [as] the leader and then came out third,” Busch said.
“I thought if we could just keep in touch with those guys, and keep close to them, then we might be able to out‑pitroad them at the end of the race, and we did one of them but not the other one.
“You just can’t get there with this package. Just such a one‑lane race track. There are not enough options, there are not enough grooves that you can get enough air on your car to close that gap and make that pass.
“That was the best we’ve run here in a long, long time, so that was fun. It was nice to lead some laps, be up-front like that, but I hate that we got behind on pitroad, and then we couldn’t make it up on the track. That kind of sucks.”
Busch explained that his repeated contact with the wall came as a result of managing tyre wear.
“When he [Jones] started to inch out a little bit, I was trying to save my right-front [tyre], because I knew my right-front wasn’t going to make it the whole rest of the way without me knocking the wall down, and I was right,” Busch said.
“I hit the wall with about four to go and then I hit it again with three to go, and that was – it killed it that time. Luckily, we were able to salvage a third, just dragging the fence for the last two laps.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen NASCAR not throw a caution in that scenario – Oh, yes, I have, that’s right. I blew a left-front tyre at California in an Xfinity race, and we had to finish the whole last lap, so doesn’t surprise me.”
While Busch missed out on victory, he claimed the regular-season Cup series championship with one race remaining before the playoffs.
He earned an extra 15 playoff point bonus ahead of the 10-race title chase that begins in two weeks at Las Vegas.