SPEEDWAY, Ind. — They say in racing that all it takes is one moment to either make or break your chances on any given day.
For Kyle Busch, a lap 111 restart in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 ultimately broke his chances at both a third-straight win in the crown jewel event and being able to end a year-long winless drought.
Busch, who led 87 of the first 110 laps, restarted to the outside of race leader Martin Truex Jr., who assumed the lead by beating Busch off pit road during the second stage break of Sunday’s race and was the control car when the green flag was waved.
Heading down into Turn 1, Busch surged to the outside of Truex and was nearly clear when Truex clipped the apron, got loose and shot up the track into Busch’s left-rear quarter panel.
The contact sent Busch spinning before he backed hard into the outside wall, while Truex lost brakes and pounded the outside wall in his own right, bursting into flames as his No. 78 Toyota coasted up to Turn 2 before coming to a stop.
In an instant, the race’s two most dominant cars — who combined to lead all but 15 laps before the game-changing crash — were eliminated in a shocking turn of events.
Truex took the entirety of the blame for the incident after being checked and released from the care center.
“I just got loose and wrecked him,” a dejected Truex said. “It was totally my fault.”
“I didn’t really know what to expect in that position and didn’t really realize he was going to drive in that deep. It just sucked me around and I’ve gotta take the blame for that one, obviously. It was my fault. I hate it for Kyle; he had a great car. We did as well. That’s racing, though.”
“I was on his (Truex’s) outside and got hit, got blindsided and went into the fence,” Busch added. “It just sucks.”
Up to that point, Truex and Busch had worked together on restarts, but radio communications just prior to the restart made it clear that it was go time.
“We worked well together and that’s the hard part about this stuff is when it’s time to go,” Truex said. “I feel awful and just made a mistake. Definitely should have picked the outside and it would have been fine I guess. Just the way it goes.”
“I’m glad I was able to get out; the fire was bad. I had no brakes and I had to run into the wall a second time just to get it to stop so I could get out. Fortunately I’m okay and we’ll live to race another day.”
For Busch, the crash demolished any hopes of making history as the first driver to score a Brickyard 400 hat trick, but more importantly, extended a streak of bad luck this season that has included a wheel coming off at Dover and being passed by Ryan Blaney for the win at Pocono.
“We could have continued to play the teammate game and try to settle it on a green flag pit stop, but he could be that much faster than me and yard me by three seconds on a run with the clean air … that I would never be able to get the opportunity to pass him back, even if we had to settle it on a pit stop,” Busch lamented. “That’s the way it goes; just chalk it up to another one that we figure out how to lose these things by.”
“It’s very frustrating and I hate it for my guys, they build such fast Toyota Camrys and the Skittles Camry was really good again today. I wanted to go out there and put ourselves in the record books for three in a row, but it’s not happening.”