Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. wreck hard while battling for lead

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SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Kyle Busch was looking to win his third consecutive Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and halt a winless skid that stretched back one year.

Martin Truex Jr. was hoping to win at the legendary facility for the first time and enhance his team’s position as the best outfit on the track this season.

A battle for the lead, however, resulted in contact that ruined both their days with less than 50 laps remaining in Sunday’s Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Records Brickyard 400.

Busch had led 87 laps in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota. Truex (Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota) led eight and an agreement on previous restarts had seen the leader opt for the outside and be allowed to drop to the inside by the second-place driver.

That agreement apparently ended prior to the restart in question, which came on Lap 111 of the scheduled 160-lap affair.

“I guess we could have continued to play the teammate game and try to settle it on a green-flag pit stop,” Busch said, “but he could be that much faster than me and yard me by three seconds on a run with the clean air … I would never be able to get the opportunity to pass him back even if we had to settle it on a pit stop.

“That’s the way it goes, just chalk it up to another one that we figure out how to lose these things by. It’s very frustrating and I hate it for my guys.”

Truex, the race leader, restarted on the inside but appeared to slip up and into Busch on the restart as the two cars rolled into the first turn. Busch’s car backed into the outside wall where it was hit by Truex, then slid down the track.

After also sliding up the track and hitting the wall, and hitting Busch, Truex’s car erupted in flames.

Truex said he “didn’t really know what to expect” restarting on the inside “and didn’t really realize that he was going to drive in that deep and suck me around.

“I will take the blame for that and obviously it was my fault,” Truex said. “I hate it for Kyle, he had a great car and we did as well, but that’s racing.”

He hit the wall a second time, he said, because the first impact cost him his brakes and “I had to … just to get it to stop so I could get out.

“Fortunately, I’m OK and we’ll live to race another day.”

Busch, the 2015 series champion, has 38 career victories in the series but has not won since his victory here last July. While he and his JGR teammates have been running well this season, it wasn’t until last weekend at New Hampshire that Denny Hamlin scored the first win for the organization this year.

Busch has seven top-five finishes this season, including runners-up results at Martinsville and Charlotte. He’s led 100 laps or more in four races as well.

“I was on his outside and got hit,” Busch said of the contact. “Got blindsided and into the fence so I would imagine that (Truex got loose).”

Truex has three wins this season and has been first or second in the points standings for much of the season. He leads the series in stage wins with 14.

JGR provides chassis to Furniture Row Racing and the two organizations share technical information.

“We worked well together and that’s the hard part about this stuff is when it’s time to go,” Truex said. “I feel awful and just made a mistake.

“Definitely should have picked the outside (lane) and it would have been fine, I guess. Just the way it goes.”

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