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Late-race run-in a costly one for Kenseth, Busch

October 30, 2011, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com



Late-race run-in a costly one for Kenseth, Busch

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- As Sunday's event at Martinsville Speedway neared its final stages, Matt Kenseth was poised to seize the series lead and Kyle Busch was in position to vault himself back into the championship picture. Then one driver ran into the other, and they both saw their title aspirations left as battered and damaged as their race cars.

Kenseth slid into Busch with 36 laps remaining in a long, physical race, igniting a chain of events that left the No. 17 car in the garage undergoing major repair work, and the No. 18 lumbering down the backstretch missing one wheel. A total of four cars were involved in the incident, but the primary casualties were Kenseth and Busch, the former facing an uphill battle to get back in this championship battle and the latter all but knocked out.

"I wish I could do some things over and try again, but we can't do that. "

--MATT KENSETH

"Clearly, it hurts any realistic shot of winning a championship this year," said Busch's crew chief, Dave Rogers, whose driver is 57 behind leader Carl Edwards with three races to go. "There's still a chance. We won't give up. But realistically, we know it's over. But in the end, a year from now, two years from now, 10 years from now, this will make us better people and a better race team, and that's how you go forward."

Afterward, Kenseth was still trying to sort out what happened. The Roush Fenway driver slid underneath Busch in Turn 3, the cars made contact, and both Kenseth and Busch spun up into the outside wall. Joey Logano and Juan Montoya were also caught up in the fracas. Kenseth rolled to the garage with the back-left corner of his purple Ford dented in, while Busch's crew took hammers to the damaged right-front of their Toyota.

"I felt like I left him some room on the outside, but everybody was kind of slow and checked up," said Kenseth, now 36 points back. "I had a run under him, and I was almost to his door, and all of a sudden we just got together. I honestly don't know if it was my fault, if I squeezed him or if he came down because there were some slow cars on the straightaway. But I almost think he must have came down, because we hit really hard, and then I must have had a flat tire and didn't know it. I went into [Turn] 3 and couldn't steer or couldn't stop it and wrecked all those guys. I feel bad about that."

Busch, who entered Sunday 26 points out of the lead, couldn't be located for comment after the event. "It was just hard racing at the end there," Rogers said. "The 17 got into us coming off Turn 2. I don't know if he cut his right-front or not. We got into Turn 3, and the 17 had his tires locked up and drove into our left-rear quarter. I'd like to think it's good, hard, clean racing at Martinsville, and we're a victim of circumstance at a short track. But it caught Kyle by surprise. He didn't know he was going to take a shot in the left rear, but he did."

The biggest hit Kenseth took was in the points. Entering the day, he stood 14 back. Earlier in the event, while Edwards was struggling to battle back from a lap down, Kenseth had actually taken the unofficial points lead, and seemed in good shape to hold it at the end of the day. He spent much of the afternoon in the top 10, defying not only his own uneven Martinsville history, but also all of the action -- the day produced 18 cautions -- going on around him. But the contact with Busch and the ensuing damage cost him three positions, and left him fifth in the standings.

"It's disappointing," said Kenseth, who finished 31st. "I obviously did a poor job today. We were really bad on used tires if we had a restart ... and that's such a disadvantage on the outside, unless you have a real fast car, which we really didn't. It was a struggle all day. Obviously, I didn't make good decisions and we ended up in a bad spot. I wish I could do some things over and try again, but we can't do that. We raced hard all day. I thought we had pretty good track position at times and just couldn't capitalize on it."

For Busch, things just got worse. He went to pit road for repairs, went back out on the race track, and had his left-front wheel come completely off and go bouncing down the backstretch. Rogers said that to save time on pit road, the rear changer removed the lug nuts on the front left. Trying to lose as few laps as possible, the car was seemingly rushed back out before the change was complete.

"My fault. Trying to get too greedy," said Rogers, whose car finished 27th. "I should have just taken the one-lap, two-lap penalty and got what we could. But I initially told Kyle we were going to try to beat the pace car off. They started putting the lugs back on the left front, and then ... all heck went loose. So much went on, that I can't remember what happened."

Kenseth's run-in with Busch came after a back-and-forth the Roush driver had with Red Bull's Brian Vickers, whose car was a player in incidents that spawned five different cautions. On the last one, Kenseth, weary of contact with Vickers, spun the No. 83 on purpose. Vickers got back on the track and seemed to try to go after Kenseth again, but only spun himself out in the process.

"With Brian, he just kept hitting me in the door," Kenseth said. "I mean, we're at Martinsville and I gave him the bottom. Obviously, I'm not going to roll over and let him go with 40 to go or whatever it was, and he just kept driving in harder and harder, and he slammed me in the door at least five times and just ran me up in the marbles, and I was just tired of it. So I spun him out. I don't know how you can't pass somebody here without running into him every single time when he gives you the bottom and the fastest lane, but obviously he couldn't, and I was trying to get every position I could at the end of the race."