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September 24, 2023

Stage 1 crash sidelines Kyle Busch in Texas playoff race

Playoffs contender Kyle Busch found early trouble in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race, crashing near the end of Stage 1 at Texas Motor Speedway.

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Busch, who started seventh in the 36-car field, spun out through Turns 1 and 2 in the 74th of 267 laps in the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400. His No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet backed into the outside retaining wall, sustaining heavy rear damage at the 1.5-mile track.

RELATED: Race results | At-track photos: Texas

Busch guided his wrecked car back to pit road in reverse to the attention of his crew, but he later drove to the garage with insurmountable damage. Busch was credited with a 34th-place finish, just ahead of the race’s first two retirees — Todd Gilliland and Busch’s RCR teammate, Austin Dillon.

Busch was evaluated and released from the track’s infield care center. He had radioed his crew before the crash that he felt that his car had a right-front tire going flat but pressed on when the issue seemed to improve.

“I had no idea,” Busch told NBC Sports. “It felt really good when we came off of pit road after that green-flag stop. The car had good grip in it, and then we had those couple of yellows back-to-back, and I restarted on the outside, and I felt like I had a flat right-front. Was gonna come to pit road, and I second-guessed it and said, ‘I don’t think so, man. It’s just something’s wrong. Something’s not right, but it’s not a flat,’ and just all on its own, just turned into the bottom of the race track in Turn 1, it just swapped ends on me.”

The finish is Busch’s worst of the Cup Series Playoffs so far, and while he was steady in navigating through the postseason’s opening round, the result marks his fourth finish outside the top 30 in the last 11 races.

“I felt like our car was, for sure, a top-five, top-10 car today,” Busch said. “Seems like every time I try, something happens. I crash or whatever. Right there, I just said it two laps before that, that I got up in the high side, and I was like, ‘You know what, I just need to just stop and just run the bottom, just make laps here, finish this stage,’ and it swaps ends on me. So I don’t know what to do. Somebody wants to tell me what to do, I’m all ears.”

Sunday’s 400-miler marked the first race in the Cup Series Playoffs’ Round of 12. After Texas, events at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 1) and Charlotte’s road course (Oct. 8) will determine the eight drivers who advance to the next round and which four will be eliminated from championship contention.

Busch advanced from the opening round of the postseason and entered the Round of 12 eight points above the provisional elimination line. His Texas result dropped him to last among the 12 title-eligible drivers, with a 17-point deficit to that cutoff point.