After the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup races, Kurt Busch simply wanted to finish a race.
With mechanical issues at Martinsville Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway and then the crew forgetting to torque the wheel last week at Kansas Speedway, Busch’s ability to lead 36 laps and compete among the top five for the majority of Saturday night’s race at Richmond International Raceway was quite the turnaround.
“We were there,” said Busch, who finished ninth after a caution bunched up the field late and set up a green-white-checkered finish. “We were top-five all night. Some guys cycled ahead of us. Some guys we were able to get back by on long runs. So all in all, it was a great night for us to be in the top five, have restarts up front and lead some laps. And then, you could just tell. Green-white-checkered; everybody is going to put on tires. Some guys are going to do two. Some guys stayed out. And it’s just a free-for-all.”
After three drivers stayed on the track and two took only two tires during the late caution, Busch lined up 10th for the final restart. He made contact with Matt Kenseth, who restarted eighth, and with Tony Stewart, who had elected to take two tires and chopped Busch in the closing lap.
The Furniture Row crew radioed to Busch, “Let it go,” but the two drivers continued trading paint on the cool-down lap. Stewart yelled, “The (expletive) 78 just (expletive) drove into me,” to which his crew replied, “don’t do nothing here. It’s not worth it, bud.”
While the two exchanged words after the race, Stewart, who dropped from fifth on the restart to 18th at the finish, declined to comment.
Busch offered his viewpoint.
“There is rubber build-up in the outside groove,” Busch said. “There are cars sliding up with old tires. So, I don’t know what the No. 14 (Stewart) was upset about. I got hit from behind (by Kenseth). I got hit every which way. So did he. Kenseth moved us up out of the way at the end, so that’s why I was upset with him, but hey; everybody is a free-for-all. We got a top 10. But the biggest thing here is 10 laps ago, this car didn’t have a scratch on it, and now it’s destroyed.”
Kenseth, who led a race-high 140 laps before finishing seventh, said he had a top-five car before the altercation with Busch.
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“That last restart, just being on the outside and the 78 (Busch) drove up through there and knocked my whole side off and put me in the marbles,” Kenseth said. “Just two laps, everybody is going to go for it and go for every hole they've got.
“That's the best I could do, so it looks like if I could have drawn the inside line instead of the outside line, then maybe I could have ran second. Just starting on the top you knew they were going to be three- and four-wide and it was just tough."