Kurt Busch’s luck ran out at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday — along with NASCAR’s patience.
Busch was leading the Good Sam 500 in his final run with Phoenix Racing when he ran out of fuel and got slammed from behind on Lap 99.
“I’m out of fuel and I got wrecked,” Busch said on the radio. “Why am I out of gas? … probably because I’m getting side-drafted. … The car started losing power and I get wrecked on two."
According to the team, Busch had five laps of fuel remaining in the tank, but at that point it didn’t matter. Busch had already removed his helmet and could not hear the radio relay. As safety workers approached Busch’s car to assist him, he couldn’t hear the directive from NASCAR via his spotter Steve Barkdoll, “they want you to stop Kurt. They want you to stop.”
But Busch climbed back in his car and kept going — much to the ire of NASCAR.
Crew chief Nick Harrison radioed to the crew, “Go to the garage guys, go to the garage. Everybody load up. We’re done. . . . Let Kurt know he needs to go to the trailer.”
Vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said NASCAR expressed concern for the welfare of the safety workers.
“He made an effort to get back in the car and get back into the garage, and we felt like it put some of our folks in harm’s way,” Pemberton said. “We just talked to him about that.
“We parked the car for his actions, and we called him in the hauler about driving off with medical equipment on the car and our workers that were trying to tend to the situation. We’ll talk more, probably earlier in the week.”
Busch is currently on double probation — first for a run-in with Ryan Newman at Darlington Raceway in May and subsequently for a raucous exchange with a reporter at Dover International Speedway in June which led to a one-race suspension the following week at Pocono Raceway.
At Talladega, Busch said he vacated his car to “survey the damage.” After assessing the situation, he attempted to drive back to the garage.
“I remembered with these engines they will run at 20 percent of fuel pressure to get it back to the garage,” Busch said. “So I tried like heck. That is the competitor in me, which is the desire that I have and that is what gets misconstrued all the time.
“This is the way my life works. Today is a perfect example. I am leading, I wreck, I run out of gas, I’m still that competitive guy that tried to get back in the race and now NASCAR is yelling at me because I don’t have my helmet on and I’m trying to get it to the garage so the guys can work on it.
“Now I’m in trouble, now I have this little storm right here. This is my life. I’m not complaining. I put myself in a lot of these situations, but it’s on to good things now moving forward. I got all the bad luck out of the way. This year has been a great year to test me in every way.”
Busch signed to drive for Furniture Row Racing two weeks ago. He is expected to drive the No. 78 Chevrolet next weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. However, his plans could be on hold as he awaits NASCAR’s decision.
Regan Smith, who Busch is set to replace, finished fifth in the Furniture Row entry — his first top five of the season. Smith has agreed to drive for Phoenix Racing at Charlotte.