Kyle Busch led a race-high 85 laps in the opener for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, but a pair of early miscues left the pole-starter with a lackluster finish Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
Busch placed 15th in the Tales of the Turtles 400, unable to overcome an unscheduled stop and a pit-road penalty — all in rapid succession. The former series champ was able to regain one of two laps lost, but he wound up one lap down to eventual winner Martin Truex Jr. He sits fifth in the standings one race into the three-race Round of 16.
“Oh well. We’ll move on,” Busch said in a post-race interview with NBC Sports.
Busch was competing in his first race with a new pit crew, days after Joe Gibbs Racing swapped in the crew members of the No. 19 Toyota for rookie teammate Daniel Suarez. Busch handily won the race’s first stage, but stopped on Lap 94 to tighten the lug nuts on a loose right-rear wheel.
The extra pit stop was harmful enough, but the No. 18 crew was also docked for coming over the pit wall too soon, an infraction that required a pass-through penalty.
That knocked Busch down to 30th place early in Stage 2, an obstacle that kept him from contending again.
“It’s just disappointing that we had trouble on pit road like that. We just never had the opportunity with how the cautions fell to get back on the lead lap.
“We’ll get back to the shop and talk about it, and really all we can do is move on and put it behind us.”
Contributing: NASCAR Wire Service