Another week, and another frustrating night for Kyle Busch and the entire No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team.
Looking to turn around a string of bad luck that dates back three weeks, Busch headed to his best track on the circuit, Bristol Motor Speedway.
Starting fourth in Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race, Busch was able to get out front for eight laps early in the going, leading the field to the competition caution at Lap 61. However, Busch’s night took a turn for the worse when he was hit with a pit road speeding penalty on the first stop of the night.
Forced to restart at the back of the pack, Busch was then caught up in an incident on Lap 126 when Kyle Larson, Brian Vickers and Aric Almirola wrecked ahead of him. As he slowed to avoid the wreck, Busch was turned into the inside wall by Clint Bowyer.
With heavy damage, Busch struggled with the ill-handling car for the rest of the night.
Eventually, Busch had an issue with the right front of the No. 18 Toyota and hit the outside wall. As he was trying to communicate the problem with crew chief Dave Rogers, the two began talking on top of each other on the radio.
Believing Busch was just frustrated and unaware of the problem, Rogers told his driver to stay out. Finally, Busch brought the car to pit road and the team pulled the car behind the wall to work on the issue.
Unable to fix the problem, Busch ended the night in 36th, recording his third DNF is seven races.
"Just a frustrating race," Rogers told FOX Sports’ Bob Dillner. "Tempers flare at Bristol. The bottom line is, we have really fast racecars the last four or five races, and we’ve just come up short. Both Kyle and the whole team, we’re frustrated.
"Kyle was trying to communicate to what was wrong with the car," he said. "I couldn’t hear him most the time and could not communicate with him. It just led to more frustration. We ended the night frustrated, but we came back here to the truck and had a great talk. You look at things like this as negatives, but negatives create positives if you work on them the right way. So, we got to air things out. Had a great talk. I think we’ll be better for it going forward."
While the pair had a heated exchange over the radio, Rogers said cooler heads prevailed in the hauler, as the team hashed things out.
"Me and Kyle came back here and we talked after the race and aired everything out. I got to hear his side of the story. Of course, you sit down and talk with someone you realize there’s a lot more to the story than you knew initially. He heard mine," Rogers said.
"After, I got with all my guys. We talked about it and just discussed things we could do better and things we did right tonight. We talked about going forward what we have lined up to go into the Chase. Hey, it’s Bristol, I have to give you guys something to talk about."
Saturday night’s result was just the latest in a string of poor finishes as the team heads into the final two races before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins. After scoring back-to-back runner-up finishes at Loudon and Indianapolis, Busch has finished 42nd, 40th, 39th and 36th Saturday night in Bristol.
Despite the results, Rogers said his team is "in a great frame of mind." They know they’re in the Chase because of Busch’s win earlier this season at Auto Club Speedway.
"That win at California was big," he said. "We’ve taken the approach, ‘Hey, we’re in the Chase, now let’s play. Let’s do some different things.’ By doing that, we blew some races, but we found a lot of speed doing it. We’ve done a good job of compartmentalizing, saying this is pre-season and this is Chase. Usually you say momentum, momentum, momentum. I’m not really worried about momentum. We’ve kind of had that mindset of, ‘Hey we’re focused on that final 10 (races) with everything we do.’"
While focused on the bigger picture, earning their first Sprint Cup Series championship together, Rogers said the poor results as of late is discouraging.
"I think we were one of the better cars here tonight," he said. "I think we had a good car at Michigan. I think we had a good car at Watkins Glen. It is frustrating when circumstances take you out. We look at tonight; we got a little too aggressive on pit road. There was miscommunication about our lights, Kyle didn’t do anything wrong. We just talked about it last minute, we miscommunicated, that leads to a speeding penalty, that puts us behind, we get caught up in someone else’s mess. It’s frustrating. We just have to clean up those details like that, and I think our cars are fast enough we’ll be just fine."
With his 36th-place finish Saturday night, Busch dropped five spots in the series standings to 17th, but thanks to his win at Auto Club Speedway currently sits eighth in the Chase standings heading into the final two races of NASCAR’s regular season.
VIDEO: Kyle Busch collected in wreck that included Aric Almirola, others