When it comes to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, one slip-up can leave a driver in trouble points wise to be able to advance to the next round. At New Hampshire, different issues for Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne leave the two veterans 15th and 16th in the standings with double digit deficits to make up in next week’s Round of 16 elimination race at Dover.
Busch was the first to run into trouble at the end of Stage 2 when his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick was spun by Austin Dillon, throwing up a huge smoke cloud and blocking the vision of the drivers behind him. Harvick would come to a stop broadside in the middle of the track off of Turn 2 and just by chance, it happened to be in front of Busch’s oncoming car, causing Busch to T-bone Harvick.
The impact caused the two cars to get locked together, forcing Busch to have to get assistance back to the garage and bringing his race to an early end. When the checkered flag flew, Busch would be scored in 37th and leaves the Magic Mile with a deficit of 17 points to make up in order to advance to the next round.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Busch. “It’s tough when you’re running where we were. We were just trying to limp it to the end of stage two and I heard, ‘Car spinning off of two’ in my ear. I saw smoke up ahead. A lot of times they’ll come back up, and I tried to leave the high side or the low side and then, boom, as soon as the smoke cleared I’m looking at Harvick’s door, my teammate. We’re both running for the Playoffs and it’s a shame that the handling is off and we’re both running where we were, but we were still going to fight all the way to the end, but now we don’t have a chance. I cannot understand the bad luck that we’re having.”
While Busch’s issues were due to getting involved in a wreck, Kahne’s problems were mechanical.
Kahne entered the race weekend after a busy week off track for him, with the announcement that Darian Grubb would take over as his crew chief for the remainder of the season and he would be moving over to Leavine Family Racing next year to drive the No. 95 car.
With that news behind him, Kahne seemed to have new life on the flat one-mile oval, qualifying ninth and running in the top-15 for the majority of the day. However, as he was threatening to break into the top-10 on lap 264, a part failure in the rear suspension of the car sent him behind the wall for repairs.
Though the team got his car repaired and back on track, the damage had already been done, leaving Kahne 35th at the end of the race, 21 points behind in the playoff standings.
“Something broke,” said Kahne. “I think they said trackbar, but that is all I know I didn’t talk to Darien (Grubb, crew chief). But, that is what he had said while we were in the garage. We were working hard. We got really loose that first run and then got control of the car. And then it was really tough to pass, but we worked our way back up and were passing for 12th when that happened. Who knows how the final restarts go and all that, but we were making gains. I think we had a top-10 car if the restarts went the right way otherwise a top 15 and we move on to Dover.”