Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Busch Apologies to Elliott for ‘Misjudging the Gap’ at Darlington

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

Wednesday night madness struck at Darlington Raceway between NASCAR’s biggest figures in terms of popularity.

Kyle Busch ended up finishing second in the Toyota 500K, but it was far from the biggest story after a miscalculated game of clearing a competitor backfired, costing Chase Elliott a shot of a win.

In what would be the final green flag action, Busch and Elliott were chasing down Denny Hamlin, who was running on older tires, for the race lead with 29 laps remaining. Coming to the frontstretch, Elliott had the momentum by sharing the outside line where Hamlin was running.

Busch, who had his eyes on both trying to tuck back in line behind the quicker Elliott and also avoid letting Kevin Harvick get a run on him. The attempt of falling back to third didn’t worked as Busch turned Elliott around, sending the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE into the inside wall.

The incident promoted Busch’s No. 18 M&M’s Fudge Brownie Toyota Camry to second. Meanwhile, a very upset Elliott gave him the number-one salute, which Busch admitted he didn’t see during the post-race video conference, as his wounded car went on the tow truck and finished 38th out of the 39-car field.

NASCAR stated that Elliott won’t be fined for the gesture and failing to follow medical procedures as he didn’t go straight to the ambulance following the accident.

As rain washed out the 1.366-mile circuit, a few members from both teams were discussing the ordeal under the red flag period. Due to this, NASCAR sent security to the No. 18 car and pit stall along with telling the crew members to clear the pit lane.

The race would called off after 208 of 228 laps with Hamlin claiming his second Cup win of 2020.

Following the race being rain-shortened, Busch’s former crew chief from his Hendrick Motorsports days (2005-07) Alan Gustafson (Elliott’s crew chief) confronted him to see whether or not the contact was intentional.

Some profanity was thrown, but the discussion was civil. Minutes later, Busch explained there was no question the incident was his fault.

“I know I made a mistake and just misjudged the gap,” said Busch. “When we were racing with the No. 11 and No. 9 had a run on him. I knew he was there and I knew I need to get in line as quick as I could. Doing so, I watched him and his momentum that was going by me. Then I tried to look up in the mirror and see where Harvick was to get in, and I just misjudged it. I made a mistake and clipped the No. 9 there, and spun him into the wall.”

Harvick, who finished third, said that from his perspective, Busch misjudged Elliott.

“You want to get back in line so quick and Kyle was on the bottom,” said Harvick. “He had a hole between myself and Chase. I’m sure he had one eye on the mirror glanced forward and it looked to me that he just completely misjudged and got the No. 9.”

Busch will apologize to Elliott, saying that he hated how the ordeal happened as the two haven’t had any issues in the past and is friends with several of the No. 9 crew members.

“I hate it for him and his guys. I got too many friends over there on that team to do anything like that on purpose,” said Busch. “I’ve raced Chase since he was a kid and never had any issues whatsoever. It’s just a bad mistake on my part and we’ll just have to deal with it later on.”

Following his initial comments, Busch recognized that Elliott’s team are upset and eventually expects to face the consequences.

“They’re upset! They’re mad,” Busch exclaimed. “I’m not just going to fix and we’re going to have to go ice cream tomorrow. Obviously, they’re going have to dwell on it and there’s repercussions of it I’m sure going to have later down the road.”

Gustafson understood Busch’s sentiment that it wasn’t intentional, but it won’t change the fact he’s had enough of his team losing races under those circumstances.

“Ultimately, he made a mistake and I get it. I don’t think he intentionally wrecked us but you just get tired of coming out on the wrong end of those deals too often,” said Gustafson. “I certainly feel like we were in position to win that race and Denny was in trouble on old tires and we were going to clear Kyle obviously.

“So, you get tired of getting run over like that. His explanation I’m sure is accurate, but it doesn’t change it. All the guys worked their tails off on this NAPA Chevy and ultimately deserve to win a race.”

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. He's also covered Idaho Athletics and high school football as both a writer and videographer. Additionally, he spent 2017 writing several racing columns as an independent journalist. Luis does video and photography, and is a fan of Seattle sports, a music critic and a motivator who wants to impact people's lives.