Kyle Busch’s effort for back-to-back championships ‘just slipped away’
Kyle Busch entered the Ford EcoBoost 400 with hopes of becoming the 11th driver in NASCAR history to win back-to-back championships.
In a wild finish with several restarts in the final 20 laps, Busch ended up making a late pit stop for tires and finished sixth place, good enough for third in the championship standings.
“You certainly wish you could go back-to-back, but there's been a lot of guys who have done that and we came close tonight,” Busch said. “We had a couple opportunities and it just kind of slipped away.”
Busch overcame a tire going down on Lap 136 to rebound and battle with his teammate Carl Edwards for the top championship spot with around 30 laps to go.
Edwards eventually got around him, but Busch had an opportunity to get back into the action when a caution came out with 15 laps to go when Dylan Lupton cut a tire.
On the following restart, Edwards and Joey Logano made contact causing a huge crash that collected several cars, including Edwards.
Busch pulled through the accident and held the top spot among championship drivers. After a 31-minute red flag, the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota restarted in third to the inside of champion contender Jimmie Johnson.
Busch didn’t get a strong restart and got passed by Joey Logano heading into Turn 1. As the teams came out of Turn 2, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. spun and brought out the caution again.
Busch decided to pit during the caution and fell back to the 13th-place, essentially ending his chances at the championship.
“We were starting to lose ground to the rest of the people around us,” Busch said of the team’s decision to take tires before the overtime restart. “It wasn't going to be worth our while to restart up there again and take advantage of track position, you need to have tires. But everybody pitted on the previous caution when (Joey Logano) did and it gave him the restart right behind our teammates there.
“Then when we pitted, we were so far back that we weren't going to make up that much ground in two laps with those guys having only one lap on their tires. I wish we would have had more, but it just wasn't meant to be tonight. It just seemed up and down a lot of the night. This M&M's team had great fight all year long and we did all the things we needed to do. We battled hard tonight as well, too.”
If Busch would have had several more restarts or more laps remaining, he might have been able to contend with Johnson and Logano for the championship, but with a clean restart, Johnson took the lead and pulled away from the field to win his historic seventh Sprint Cup championship.