Kurt Busch sidelined early after Stage 1 crash at Richmond

Playoff driver Kurt Busch was sidelined early in Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway, exiting after a crash in Stage 1 that left him in last place in the Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders.

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Busch had led four laps in the early going, with his Chip Ganassi Racing substitute pit crew putting the No. 1 Chevrolet out first after a round of pit stops during the competition caution period. But a left-rear tire went down entering Turn 1 shortly after the restart, sending Busch’s car looping into the outside retaining wall.

“I was just impressed with our speed and the way we unloaded and (the speed) we had in that first 30-lap run,” Busch said after he was checked and released from the infield care center. “After the pit stop, something in the left-rear wasn’t right. The guys said they got the tire tight. They made an adjustment and there was no rub and the left-rear let go. I just radioed to them how loose the car was. Something happened with that left-rear. It let go. It let go of our points and it let go of our whole season right now. I don’t know what we’re going to have to do at Bristol other than win.”

“Hats off to everybody at Ganassi. Family, I’m all right. But that left-rear took off on me and now we’ve got to dig out of this hole and give it our best. Thanks to Monster. Thanks to Chevy and Ganassi. It kind of sucks.”

Busch finished at the bottom of the 37-car field, having completed just 40 of the 400 laps. He currently sits in a tie for 12th in the Cup Series Playoffs standings, deadlocked with Alex Bowman in a bid for the last transfer spot with one race remaining in the opening Round of 16 in the postseason. The Ganassi driver holds the edge for the spot since he has the best finish between the two drivers in the Round of 16 so far — his sixth-place result at Darlington.

That opening-round finale comes Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Bristol Motor Speedway, where Busch has won six times.

Busch was competing with a shuffled pit crew lineup, with crew members for his No. 1 team held out because of COVID-19 protocols. Crew members from the No. 42 team for driver Ross Chastain shifted over, and Busch gained a spot to vault to the lead on the car’s lone pit stop.