MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Kyle Busch just missed out on a Championship 4 slot Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, coming up three points shy of advancing from the Round of 8 group. The performance wasn’t what he had hoped for, but he still managed a determined second-place result just behind Xfinity 500 race winner Alex Bowman.
So when asked if his elimination was tough to take, his response was fairly frank.
“Oh, we ran like dog—- last week and this week. So we had a Hail Mary opportunity there at the end and we were trying to make something out of nothing,” Busch said. “Great effort. We did everything we could all day long. We never stopped working on it, but we have missed it way too much lately, so I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Busch started at a deficit after a pit-road speeding penalty to open the final stage, but his comeback efforts put him in position to not just register a top-five finish, but to race for the Cup Series title in next Sunday’s season finale (3 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App/Peacock, MRN, SiriusXM) at Phoenix Raceway. He wound up just .472 seconds back of Bowman at the checkered flag and joined Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano among the eliminated.
But the checkered wasn’t the end of it for Busch, whose No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota ended up turned around in Turn 1 after his hard racing with old foe Keselowski turned full-contact on the final lap.
Again, Busch’s description was blunt.
“Well, he drills my ass coming out of (Turn) 4 for no reason,” Busch said. “Where was he going? What was he going to do — spin me out? He was trying to do a Harvick is what he was trying to do. For what? Second place? To do what? He wasn’t going to transfer through with that. … So stupid. I don’t understand these guys. I should beat the (expletive) out of him right now is what I should do, but that doesn’t do me any good either.”
Asked why not, Busch said: “I’ve already had to pay enough fines in my lifetime. I’m sure I’ll get another one.”
Keselowski offered his side, saying, “I don’t know what he was thinking. I don’t know if he’s mad at himself, mad at me. I don’t sweat that.”
But Busch suggested that any goodwill built up from their relatively clean contests for position earlier in the race had evaporated within sight of the start-finish line.
“I raced Brad fantastic all day,” Busch said. “I mean, I held him up more than any other driver out there the entire race. I was on the outside, my car was better on the outside today, and he couldn’t make it by me and he ran me relatively clean. Once he got enough alongside of me, he kind of washed out and moved me up a little bit, which is fine — I get it. Then coming to the checkered, just that dumb (expletive). That right there is going to make me race him differently, even though he had all the coins in the bucket the whole day, just emptied it out right there at the end.”