Kyle Busch wasn’t dirty in Chase Elliott wreck, but mistake could still cost him

  • pe-sports
  • May 22, 2020
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Kyle Busch isn’t a dirty driver. He’s fierce.

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Sometimes, even as good as he is, he will push the car beyond its limit and do something stupid — everyone has seen him hit the wall trying to do too much.

Sometimes, he causes wrecks; he has caused wrecks with Toyota teammates such as Martin Truex. Jr. and Matt Kenseth in the last four years.

And with a few exceptions, he doesn’t race dirty (yes, Ron Hornaday, the truck series in 2011 was dirty). But his resume, especially his recent one and especially when it doesn’t involve Brad Keselowski or a slower driver in a developmental series, backs up his assertion that he made a mistake, that he unintentionally wrecked Chase Elliott in what turned out to be the final green-flag lap Wednesday of the Toyota 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Busch was running third and attempted to get back in line behind Elliott when he clipped the rear of Elliott’s car and sent him into the wall.

And now Busch will deal with the consequences — the accusations that it was intentional, and any payback for ruining Elliott’s day, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

On the first part, the driver with the best view didn’t view it as intentional.

“He wanted to get back in line so quick,” said Kevin Harvick, who was running fourth. “Kyle was on the bottom. He had a hole between myself and Chase.

“I’m sure he had one eye in the mirror, glanced forward. It looked to me like he completely misjudged and got the 9 [of Elliott].”

That’s exactly how Busch described it as well.

“I watched him and his momentum that was going by me and then I tried to look up in the mirror and see where Harvick was to get in, and I just misjudged it,” Busch said. “I made a mistake.”

Elliott got out of his car and walked a couple of steps on the apron and gave Busch the middle-finger salute as he drove by. The Hendrick Motorsports driver won’t be penalized for the gesture nor for not going directly to the ambulance.

That’s probably little solace for Elliott, who obviously felt wronged as he finished 38th, while Busch finished second in a race that never went back to green and was called for rain minutes after the Elliott crash.

With few reporters allowed at the track and just a couple of broadcasters in the infield, Elliott wasn’t interviewed after the accident. But the photo of him standing and flipping off Busch is probably worth the proverbial 1,000 words.

There was no fight, as NASCAR security made sure that a postrace conversation between Busch and Elliott crew chief Alan Gustafson didn’t escalate. Busch used to drive for Gustafson at Hendrick and still has some friends there, but Busch and Elliott are not incredibly tight.

“Him and I have always had a cordial relationship over the years,” Busch said. “Certainly we’re not near as close, we’re not friends like you’d say him and [Ryan] Blaney are or anything like that.

“I’ve known him since he was 12 or 13 years old, been racing with him ever since then, late models, super late models, trucks, Xfinity cars, all that sort of stuff. I’ll definitely reach out to him and tell him I’m sorry, tell him I hate it that it happened. It’s all I can do. That doesn’t change the outcome of the night.”

Denny Hamlin, Busch’s teammate and winner of the race, said that getting in the top lane is critical in that spot, and the intensity will lead to drivers making mistakes. As Busch noted earlier in the year and Hamlin noted again Wednesday night, there is very little give-and-take with the 550 horsepower package where track position is king.

“We have to make moves to get in holes that will close in a matter of a half a second,” he said. “More than likely there was somebody on the high side … and Kyle was trying to fit back in line on the high side, try to time when the 9 was going to clear him, and just miss‑timed it.”

The defending Cup champion, Busch has had his share of battles with other drivers and is probably the most polarizing driver in the series.

So he knows what’s coming on social media and, once fans return, driver’s introductions.

“I can say whatever I can say,” Busch said. “I’ve never been a very good politician anyways. His fan base is going to have the hatred to me anyways. I just deal with what I got to deal with.

“Rowdy Nation will have my back and we’ll go after it after that.”

And what about on the track? Will an apology be enough?

“I’m not just going to fix it and we’re going to go have ice cream tomorrow,” Busch said. “They’re going to have to dwell on it and there are repercussions I’m going to have for sure down the road.”

On The Air

Thursday

Xfinity Series Toyota 200, noon, FS1

Sunday

Cup Series qualifying, 2 p.m., FS1

Cup Series Coca-Cola 600, 6 p.m., FOX

Monday

Xfinity Series Charlotte race, 7:30 p.m., FS1

Tuesday

Gander Trucks Series Charlotte race, 8 p.m., FS1

Wednesday

Cup Series Charlotte race, 8 p.m., FS1

Stat of Note

Kevin Harvick, who finished third Wednesday after winning Sunday at Darlington, has a nine-race streak of top-10s at Darlington including 2 wins and is the only driver with top-10s in every race this year.

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They Said It

“I have too many friends over there on that [Hendrick No. 9] team to do anything like that on purpose. I’ve raced Chase since he was a kid and never had any issues with him whatsoever. It was just a bad mistake on my part and I’ll just have to deal with it later on.” — Kyle Busch