By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
Kurt Busch entered Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway with just three points separating him from a berth in the championship finale, but for the 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, it just wasn’t his day.
After finishing the first stage in fifth place, taking the lead on the ensuing restart and holding onto the top spot for the next 52 laps, things went awry for Busch and his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team when Busch was penalized for passing the pace car entering pit road under caution at lap 135.
As a result, Busch was held a lap by NASCAR, dropping him from the lead to near the tail end of the field. Needless to say, he was not happy with the penalty, letting loose on the radio.
Kurt Busch is incensed.
“Wonder why fucking sponsors are leaving this fucking sport. BULLSHIT! … Drop a fucking rulebook off next time I pit so I can read it.”
Tony Stewart comes on radio: “Kurt, take a deep breath.”
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) November 11, 2018
Busch fought his way back toward the front, eventually getting his lap back before a strategy call to stay out on track put him on the front row ahead of a restart on lap 267.
When the green flag flew, Busch held steady in the outside lane through the dogleg and Turns 1-2, before Denny Hamlin charged up beside him and the two made contact. Hamlin would wind up getting spun into the outside wall on the backstretch, while Busch spun back toward the inside wall, contacting Chase Elliott in the process and causing significant damage to his Ford.
The damage was too much to be able to repair and Busch would finish the day in 32nd, eliminating him from being able to be one of the four to transfer on to Homestead with a chance to fight for the title.
“Erik Jones was on my inside when we restarted and I just wanted to make sure I didn’t slip through the new one and two,” said Busch. “If I could have been to somebody’s outside off two, then I thought we had a good shot of maintaining the lead and I just got cleaned out. I flat out got cleaned out.
“I thought it was the right decision on staying out. I’m not gonna look back on it. If the rule earlier in the race on the pit road of passing the pace car is black and white, I just need to get brushed up on my rulebook. I didn’t gain anything by doing what I did other than just digging from behind all day.
“It was a really good year for our Haas Automation Ford. Thanks to Monster Energy and everybody that put their talent into that 41 car. I just didn’t get the job done to get us to Homestead.”
With Busch’s future still up in the air for 2019 and beyond, next weekend’s race could be his last behind the wheel of the No. 41 car if he is indeed headed for another team as the rumor mill suggests.