The postseason hopes for Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott were dashed after late-race contact in an incident with Denny Hamlin triggered a multi-car crash at ISM Raceway at Phoenix.
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Denny Hamlin challenged Busch for the lead but his No. 11 Toyota washed up into Busch’s No. 41 Ford at the exit of Turn 2. The contact between both cars forced Busch’s car into the outside wall and later snared Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet, causing major damage to all three cars and prompting a Lap 268 caution.
Busch rejoined the race after repairs, but retired to the garage after completing just 272 of the 312 laps in the Can-Am 500. The exit in 32nd place ended his chance for a title berth in next weekend’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Terribly sorry, guys,” Busch told his crew over the radio. “I didn’t get the job done.”
Hamlin indicated that Busch was not to blame for the contact after their initial hit, which sent both cars out of control and clogged the backstretch, involving both Elliott and teammate Alex Bowman.
“I got loose and I chased it up the race track and he was right there,” Hamlin said. “Then it looked like he hit the wall and I was up there and kind of pinched him and then hit the wall again. It was not going to be good. He kind of turned us then, but I can’t blame him. Kurt’s been fair to me in so many years of racing. I’ve never had one incident with him, he’s been as fair to me as anyone out there and I hate it for him because trust me, I was rooting for him – all of today I was rooting for the 41 to be the guy that got in there.
“Ultimately we have to go out there to try to race to win and we were battling hard off the corner. Just ran out of real estate for sure.”
Elliott, who was also vying for a Championship 4 spot, continued after quick fixes to his Hendrick Motorsports entry, but he lamented being further back in the pack after absorbing a pit-road speeding penalty on Lap 231. He wound up 23rd, three laps down.
“Yeah, was speeding on pit road and ultimately that is what got us behind,” said Elliott, who led three times for 16 laps. “You can’t come down pit road leading the race and speed and expect to race for a championship the next week. Just unfortunate and especially that late in the race. So, that was just my fault and really no excuse for it. So, we will try again next year.”