By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
A day removed from the controversial incident with Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch set his mind back onto racing for a victory in Thursday’s Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.
While that topic is still on the minds of the media and fans, Busch’s performance in the Toyota 200 had its share of up and downs, ending the 147-lap madness with a runner-up finish.
Busch started in the 26th position and immediately blew by the competition to the point he had already reached the top-five before the competition caution on Lap 15. However, Busch wouldn’t take the lead until Lap 48 which he held four 44 consecutive laps, resulting in a Stage 2 victory.
His afternoon would change when he exited out of pit road first, but was handcuffed with a speeding penalty in Section 2 of pit road. Therefore, he had to restart in 21st for the final stage.
By the time the race reached 35 laps to go, Busch had worked his way back into the top-10, but was over 10 seconds behind Justin Allgaier until the final caution came out on Lap 131.
Michael Annett went very low in Turn 3 to get by the lapped car of Joe Nemechek and his JR Motorsports teammate Daniel Hemric for third, resulting him losing control of his car and subsequently shredded the right front tire.
Pit road was open with 13 laps to go which the leaders and Busch, who was in the seventh position, took advantage of getting four fresh tires. The No. 54 Thank You Heroes/M&M’s Toyota Supra exited out of third, behind Allgaier and leader Chase Briscoe.
A nine-lap shootout followed as Busch drove the wheels of his Supra to hunt Briscoe down for the win. Busch found the golden opportunity coming to the white flag after Briscoe got sideways at the entry of Turn 4. He went low to get by Briscoe and was credited leading his first lap after the speeding penalty.
Neither driver gave an inch as the two were battling door-to-door and rubbing fenders. Briscoe regained the spot after Busch got sideways in Turn 1, clearing the 96-time Xfinity Series winner.
“I knew being on the inside going into one wasn’t good, but he got such a bad run off of four that I had no choice,” Busch on battling Briscoe in the closing laps. “I thought about blitzing the outside of three and four, but I knew that he would just go in on the bottom and slide up to the top and plug it for me.
“I didn’t really know what to do so I just tried what I tried and it wasn’t going to be enough. We weren’t close enough. He was super loose, but I had no way of getting close enough to him anyways.”
Busch gave it one more shot by going low to get the edge on Briscoe, but just couldn’t get the job done as the Stewart-Haas Racing driver beat Busch by 0.086 seconds to score an emotional second win of the season.
“We’ll take second I guess, have no other choice, right? Topped the list or maybe I already did that for the most second-place finishes,” Busch on his 54th runner-up Xfinity Series finish. “I might have beat Mark Martin (24) for second-place finishes so that’s something I guess.”
Briscoe had the emotional thrill of victory while Busch’s smoking Supra felt dejected after coming up just shy of winning once more in the series. Despite the disappointment, Busch thought about the bigger picture which was our current society due to COVID-19.
“You always like to come out on the better end of it of course, but the real mission today was thanking our heroes and I appreciate Mars/Wrigley Confectionary and all their associates for the red, white and blue Supra here today with M&M’s on it,” said Busch. “It was a lot of fun to be able to give back to our heroes. Had a good showing and put on a little bit of an exciting show there at the end.”
The Mitchell, Indiana native was in tears after taking the checkered flag as his wife Marissa Briscoe had a miscarriage two days earlier. Something Kyle’s wife Samantha Busch tragically dealt with in 2018.
In the post-race video conference, Kyle said that Samantha asked him to reach out to Chase and Marissa under this difficult time period as they’ll respect the Briscoe family’s privacy under a difficult time period in their lives.
“It wasn’t more difficult to get in the seat, it was more difficult with the world still going on around you and we weren’t quite as open about it at that particular time,” said Busch. “Nobody really knew what was going on or what we were going through, but had all their own opinions about what was happening and what was going on so that was pretty disrespectful. We’re respecting Chase’s (Briscoe) privacy and everything.
“My wife, Samantha, actually asked me to reach out and find his phone number so we could reach out to them. We have their contact information and I’m just not sure if Samantha has reached out to her yet in order to talk to her about anything.”
Briscoe said that Samantha did indeed reach out to Marissa, which meant a lot to both of them.
“Obviously, Samantha is as close to what my wife can relate to. Both of their husbands do the same thing, obviously on a little different scale, but they had it even worse than we did,” said Briscoe. “We were able to get pregnant fairly quick and they’ve struggled to be able to do that, so it was really good for my wife, Marissa, to be able to talk with Samantha.
“I want to thank the Busch family. I haven’t talked to Kyle, but for Samantha to reach out, she didn’t have to do that by any means, so for her to do that and seek out Marissa’s number — Marissa doesn’t really talk to anybody in the racing world, so for her to be able to find her number definitely meant a lot and we want to thank the Busch family for that.”
While that’s on the mind of both competitors and loved ones, racing will go on as Busch’s next Xfinity Series race will be the Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway May 26.
Busch intends of running all seven races across all three national touring series (Cup, Xfinity and Trucks) in a span of 11 days. With three races at Darlington wrapped up, Busch felt good about his race shape despite the rain delays taking his workout times away.
“We had the race on Sunday and it was a little warmer out and I saw a couple guys get out of the car and kind of sit next to their car and they were pretty wet and kind of hot and overheated maybe a little bit. I felt fine,” said Busch. “Then last night I had no issues and then today again I had no issues. I’ve got enough cooling and things like that where I feel pretty good and ready to go.”