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Stenhouse fires back, explains decision not to reach out to Kyle Busch

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tossed barbs right back at Kyle Busch on Friday, saying he didn’t smooth things over after their crash last weekend at Daytona because he was irritated by Busch’s public comments.

Stenhouse reached out to Busch for the first time since the two were involved in a contentious collision last weekend, leaning into the window of Busch’s No. 18 Toyota in between rounds of qualifying at Kentucky Speedway. The two chatted briefly, and Stenhouse elaborated on his reasoning in an interview with NBCSN.

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“Ah, not really a change of heart. I just told him why I didn’t reach out. I felt like he ran his mouth enough on his radio and then after the race that I didn’t really have anything to say to him,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I honestly feel like that I normally do reach out to people when I make mistakes, and I clearly made a mistake, but you know with him running his mouth I just felt like I didn’t really need to call him.

“So I just let him know that. I told him that I was like ‘Hey, you’re right, you do run a lot further up front, but pick and choose your battles wisely because you will have to deal with me sometime whether you’re lapping me or we get our cars better and we’re up there racing with you.’ I told him if he wanted to keep running his mouth, he can come over and do it around me and I’ll stop him for myself.”

Stenhouse was a central figure in multiple wrecks in last weekend’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway, including an incident that eliminated Busch before the end of the second stage. Busch was critical of Stenhouse’s aggressive tactics in that crash and the one that preceded it, a massive stack-up that involved more than half of the 40-car field.

Stenhouse accepted blame in his post-race remarks last Saturday night at Daytona, but Busch told reporters at Kentucky that his rival had taken no measures to mend fences. “You wipe out half the field and pretty sure there would be a pretty busy Monday for him, but there wasn’t, so apparently he just doesn’t care,” Busch said earlier Friday.

Stenhouse earned the 14th starting position for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM), just missing out on the final-12 cut for the final round. The early exit allowed Stenhouse to talk briefly with Busch at his car before making his way back to the garage.

Busch, a two-time Kentucky winner, continued in qualifying to snare the fifth starting spot for Saturday night’s race.