The 2015 Sprint Cup championship hopes for Joe Gibbs Racing rest squarely on the shoulders of Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, who are the only two JGR drivers left in the Chase.
But on Lap 170 of Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shots 500 at Martinsville Speedway, those hopes were put in serious danger.
Running inside the top 10, Busch was working under Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet when the No. 18 Toyota bobbled in Turn 1 and 2, making contact with the left rear of Dillon’s car. The contact sent both cars spinning off the exit of Turn 2, bringing out the eighth caution of the day.
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As Busch and Dillon spun, Edwards drove hard into the back of AJ Allmendinger’s No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet. The contact caused major damage to the hood and nose area of the No. 19 Toyota.
Both JGR drivers came to pit road for repairs and they were able to stay on the lead lap. When the race restart on Lap 179, Busch was 28th and Edwards was 29th.
After the incident, Busch indicated over the team radio that he had hit a wet spot on the track and that was the reason his car bobbled and hit Dillon.
“Can somebody ask (NASCAR) to (expletive) blow the water down low please?” Busch said over the radio. Running slick Goodyear Racing tires with no tread, Sprint Cup Series cars are unable to race in wet conditions.
Despite the issue, Busch was able to recover well, avoid disaster in the closing laps and finish the day fifth on the leaderboard. Edwards was not able to recover as well and finished 14th.
Looking to be in serious trouble early in the going, Busch never gave up and leaves Martinsville second in the Chase standings, the first driver without a victory in the Eliminator Round.
“I screwed us up early in the race and touched that water down there in Turn 1 and spun out with the 3 (Dillon) car so that was my bad,” Busch said after the race. “I bent up the front end of the car and it was just never right from there on out, but we persevered and we just made the changes that we needed to make for this car for our conditions that we had.
“The M&M’s Crispy Camry there at the end was good enough for a top-five so I’m glad we finished there,” he added. “Everybody is so equal here and when it’s those last sort of restarts like that you are just going for everything you’ve got — whoever’s in front of you, get them out of the way. All in all, good day for us. Real proud of this team and everything that we’ve been doing this year, hopefully we keep it going.”
While Busch was able to quickly recover and work his way through the field, Edwards was not as lucky. Running the deepest of the Chase drivers for much of the afternoon, Edwards’ struggles continued after the Lap 170 incident.
However, despite the rough outing at Martinsville, Edwards heads to Texas Motor Speedway fifth in the Chase standings, just seven points behind Kevin Harvick in fourth.
“That was a crazy day,” said Edwards. “It’s Martinsville and just at the end I think we had an opportunity to get a couple more spots and I’m a little more frustrated about that. We just held our own — it was a bad day, but we didn’t make it worse. … I just wish that last couple laps, if we didn’t get choked up behind Tony (Stewart) there, I think we could have had a 10th or a ninth.”