FORT WORTH, Texas – Kyle Busch watched his No. 18 car going around the track in Texas from the team's pit box Sunday.
Unable to gain any points by watching, Busch was officially eliminated from championship contention. Already a long shot before then, he's now 100 points back and down to 11th place with two races left
Busch remained at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend despite NASCAR taking the rare step of parking him for the Cup and Nationwide races after deliberating wrecking championship contender Ron Hornaday Jr. in the Truck Series race on the same track Friday night. Michael McDowell drove the M&M Toyota owned by Joe Gibbs Racing.
Busch issued an apology Saturday night and said he understood why he was taken out of the car for the rest of the weekend. He wrote that the hardest thing to do as a driver "is to sit on the sidelines listening to cars on the track when you know you should be out there competing. For this, I have no one to blame but myself."
Gibbs said Busch came to him and asked if he could sit on the pit box and be with the team during the race.
There was no additional comment from Busch on Sunday before he climbed up on the pit box and put a headset on for the race. He sat by crew chief Dave Rogers while McDowell ran mostly back in the pack and finished 33rd, three laps down.
Under NASCAR rules, Busch couldn't appeal the decision to park him for the weekend.
NASCAR president Mike Helton and Joe Gibbs haven't ruled out the possibility of more penalties for Busch after the weekend.
M&M's, the primary sponsor of the No. 18 Cup car, issued a statement on its Facebook page Sunday expressing its disappointment in Busch, who is the owner of his truck that also has the candy as a sponsor.
"The recent actions by Kyle Busch are not consistent with the values of M&M'S and we're very disappointed," the statement read. "Like you, we hold those who represent our brand to a higher standard and we have expressed our concerns directly to Joe Gibbs Racing."
OUT OF THE CHASE: While the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup is really down to a two-driver battle between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart with two races left, only three drivers have been mathematically eliminated from contention.
The first eliminations came after Sunday's race at Texas.
Denny Hamlin moved up from 11th to 10th place in the standings, but his 99-point deficit behind Edwards can't be overcome in two races. Same for Kyle Busch (100 points back) and the driver of Stewart's other car, Ryan Newman (103).
NOT LOST IN SPACE: A flag from Texas Motor Speedway that left Earth as part of the final space shuttle mission this summer is back at the track.
Shuttle Atlantis pilot Doug Hurley, who has been a season-ticket holder at Texas since 2005, took the flag with him on the mission in July that closed out the 30-year shuttle program.
Hurley said the flag traveled 5.3 million miles, making 200 orbits around Earth while traveling 17,500 mph — well more than 100 times the average speed of Sunday's race, which was a track record of 152.705 mph.
While there was no possibility of a shuttle flyover, the flag was delivered to Hurley and Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage at the start-finish line by someone who landed there after flying a jetpack along the front stretch.
In November 2009, four months after guiding Shuttle Endeavour in space, Hurley was in a pace car at Texas that he drove off a Chinook helicopter that landed on the infield — and he said Sunday that was the scariest thing that he has ever done.
Hurley was already sitting in the pace car that was backed into the helicopter in such a tight fit that the doors couldn't open. The helicopter remained in the air about 45 minutes before finally lowering to the front stretch and dropping a ramp. Hurley then drove onto the track, leaving skid marks when he hit the pavement.
Burton took the lead by staying on the track after leaders Tony Stewart and Edwards pitted with 31 laps to go. He had about a 6-second lead with six laps to go and hoped a slow go to the finish would get him across the line. Alas, his tank ran empty with just inside of five laps remaining.
Had Burton held on, Stewart would be six points behind Edwards in the points race instead of three.
"Yeah, I never cheered so hard for Jeff Burton in my life," Edwards said. "If I could have loaned him some fuel I would have, but that's what they had to do."
Burton also would have become the second three-time Cup winner at Texas.
SPARKPLUGS: Kyle Petty had always wanted to ride a bull — a real bull, not a mechanical one. He finally got his chance Sunday during a TMS garage party for season-ticket holders. Among the circus-like setup was a bull ring for a competition among real cowboys. Petty, wearing a colorful getup of his own, took his turn. The bull broke out of the chute and Petty quickly went down. Other than maybe his pride, Petty wasn't hurt. ... Perfect attendance: Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin are the only drivers who have started all 22 Sprint Cup races at Texas, which hosted its first race in 1997.