NASCAR champion Busch tries to stave off elimination
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) - Kyle Busch, to be clear, didn't vent until he said he would be eliminated from the playoffs that round. The reigning cup winner insisted he was frustrated and frivolous as he wrote off his season.
"I wouldn't go to the racetrack every week and put my heart and soul into this racetrack and take time for my family if I wasn't interested," said Busch. "That's a wink and should be known as that, obviously by me.
"It is what it is and we're going to go ahead this week and fight like hell and try to make it through."
Here he is about to end before he starts the race on Sunday on the hybrid road circuit oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch is 21 points below the cutoff line and could be the first reigning champion to be eliminated in the round of 16 if four are removed from the field.
At stake is his offer to become the first driver to win consecutive titles since Jimmie Johnson won five straight titles from 2006 to 2010. Busch would also lose his five-year stage of promotion to the championship race, but worse, his run of at least one win a year since his 2005 rookie season has been seriously jeopardized.
Busch doesn't have to win on the “Roval” to move forward, but there are only five races left to improve his season. Just one win puts him in third place on the all-time list for 16 consecutive seasons with Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace and Johnson.
"It's really important. Think about it, it's an investment of 16 years," said Busch. "It would be nice if I could win races throughout my career every year I'm out there."
Only Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch, Kyle's older brother, are locked up in the round of 16. The bottom line with Busch is Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer, who recently announced that he was moving to the Fox Sports booth later this season.
The Sunday assignment is superb not only on Charlotte's hybrid course, which was designed as a unique venue in 2018 specifically to improve the playoffs, but also to adapt to adverse weather conditions. The Sunday forecast predicts an 80% chance of rain, and the Roval's road section allows NASCAR to race in wet conditions.
The Cup series has never raced in the rain and Goodyear on Saturday offered an explanation of the four sets of tires each team will have on Sunday. The tires are most comparable to the Goodyear Eagle F1 all-season tire, and Juan Pablo Montoya was instrumental in its final development 10 years ago.
The Xfinity series has previously raced in wet conditions and the rain tires were needed on Saturday for a slippery potential preview of the main event. Everywhere along the track, cars were plotting aquaplaning, hitting the wall, and trying to get the windshield wipers to work.
That was from competitors who not only drove in the rain, but just did it at Road America in August. The cup drivers have never used rain tires in competition before.
"It's fair. Everyone has the same chance," said Joey Logano, eighth and on the transfer area in front of Busch.
Logano asked for tips from Team Penske driver Austin Cindric, who rode in the rain in the Xfinity series, but also wondered if there is a limit to how much rain NASCAR will tolerate.
NASCAR stopped the Xfinity series race on Saturday for about 40 minutes to allow the track dryers to push water off the race surface.
“When ... is it too much rain? Is there water or running water over the circuit where you can ride a seaplane? ", Logano asked himself." How is the drainage on this racetrack due to the infield street course? "I don't know.
"I never really looked around when it was raining to see how this course of the road drained. So there are so many questions that we have no answers to. We just have to expect the unexpected at this point."
The Charlotte Motor Speedway opened for the first time this year. Around 7,000 spectators were admitted to the two-day race weekend. Since Charlotte is the home track for most of the local teams, the track atmosphere was positive for the first time since the beginning of March.
NASMSAR's own IMSA sports car series was due to debut late Saturday night in Charlotte, and industry executives were more present in the pandemic than ever before. NBC had its booth on the track during the race for the first time this season - production was tied to Charlotte during the pandemic - but its crew will be on site for the final five races.
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