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Stage 1 crash snares multiple cars at Texas; Kyle Busch drives on; Bowman out

A large multicar crash tangled up a host of drivers during the first stage of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

RELATED: Official results | At-track photos: Texas

Playoff contender Kyle Busch received slight damage to the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the 32nd of 334 scheduled laps in the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 (NBC, PRN, SiriusXM), but other competitors sustained heavier contact. Bubba Wallace, Alex Bowman, Ryan Newman, Ross Chastain, Cody Ware, Joey Gase, Justin Haley, Aric Almirola, Michael McDowell, Cole Custer and JTG-Daugherty Racing teammates Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Preece were also snared by the Turn 2 melee.

Busch continued after his crew changed four tires and cleared some of the fender damage, then rallied on a fuel-conservation run to win Stage 1. However, Wallace, Bowman, Newman, Ware, Gase, Haley, Stenhouse and Preece all had their days end after the wreck.

2021 Oct16 Ryan Preece Main Image
Meagan Thompson | NASCAR Digital Media

“Just an embarrassment on my part,” said Wallace, who absorbed the blame after losing control of his 23XI Racing entry in the midst of a three-wide battle. He finished 32nd. “Just trying to get clean air, went to the middle and said, ‘ah, this isn’t good.’ I backed out and by the time I backed out, it was already around. So, sorry to everybody that came here to cheer on the 23 car. I let everybody down, let my team down. So I apologize to them, we’ll go finish it out at Kansas.”

Busch wound up eighth in Sunday’s race, moving from one point below the provisional elimination line entering the race to fourth place in the playoff standings, eight points up after the Round of 8 opener. A pit-road speeding penalty during the first round of stops put his No. 18 entry back in the pack, forcing him to tiptoe through the maelstrom in front of him.

Bowman, who was eliminated from playoff contention after last weekend’s Round of 12 elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, continued his rough ride in the final 10-race stretch. He was forced to drop to the rear of the field for the start because of unapproved adjustments to his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, and severe damage left him sidelined after just 36 laps.

“Playoffs. From. Hell,” Bowman tweeted after his fourth finish outside the top 20 in the last seven races.