Chase Elliott was well on his way to a strong finish in Wednesday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway after starting 17th.
But that all changed when the Hendrick Motorsports driver was turned by Kyle Busch with 28 laps remaining. Elliott was running second in the closing laps of the race when he received a heavy tap from Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, sending the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet nose-first into the inside frontstretch wall heading into Turn 1.
Elliott was unable to continue in the race, showing his frustration with Busch after exiting his race car by delivering a very specific, one-fingered gesture. Busch overtook the second-place position before a red flag was displayed for inclement weather with 22 laps remaining. The race was then declared official.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 21, 2020
Busch was confronted by No. 9 team crew chief Alan Gustafson — Busch’s own former crew chief — after the race. The pair exchanged words from a distance before heading their separate ways into the garage.
Following the rain-shortened event, Busch took full blame for the incident and shared his side of what happened.
“I’m certainly going to reach out,” Busch said after the race. “Him and I have always had a cordial relationship over the years. Certainly, we’re not near as close, we’re not friends like you’d say him and (Ryan) Blaney are or anything like that. I’ve known him since he was 12 or 13 years old, been racing with him ever since then, late models, super late models, Trucks, Xfinity cars, all that sort of stuff.
“Obviously, I just made a mistake, misjudged the gap, sent him into the wall,” he added. “That was entirely unintentional. Yeah, I mean, I’ll definitely reach out to him and tell him I’m sorry, tell him I hate it that it happened. All I can do. That doesn’t change the outcome of the night.”
Busch later took to Twitter to apologize once more for ending Elliott’s night prematurely.
I want to apologize again to Chase & his team. I made a mistake & misjudged the gap. I really hate that it happened for those guys. I have too much respect for Chase and Alan to do that maliciously.
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) May 21, 2020
Kevin Harvick, who finished third in the event after winning Sunday’s The Real Heroes 400 at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped South Carolina oval, had the best view of the incident.
“He (Busch) wanted to get back in line so quick,” Harvick said. “Kyle was on the bottom. He had a hole between myself and Chase. I’m sure he had one eye in the mirror, glanced forward. It looked to me like he completely misjudged and got the 9.”
Elliott led 28 of the 208 total circuits, earning 13 stage points after finishing seventh in Stage 1 and second in Stage 2.
The NASCAR Cup Series will be back in action on May 24 for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio).