By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Kyle Busch’s abnormal 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season has, in a way, come to an end. The defending series champion has been bumped from the playoffs after finishing 30th in Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400 from the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
The elimination marks 2020 as the first year Busch will miss the Championship 4 since the inaugural season of the playoff grid in 2014. Additionally, with only four races remaining, Busch is looking down the barrel of his first winless season in 16 years in Cup.
Entering the weekend 21 points below the cutline, Busch was unable to climb his way past the likes of Alex Bowman, Joey Logano and Chase Elliott, as the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing driver saw a variety of issues plague his hopes in advancing.
“It’s just been the year,” Busch said. “Nothing has played out and been on our side. It’s just been unfortunate circumstances, a lot of bad luck. These guys on this M&M’s Camry team never give up and they fight all year long and every race and every lap, every pit stop as we can see.”
Staying out on old tires with 23 laps to go, the strategy took a rough turn. In Busch’s eyes, however, it was one of those “Hail Mary” calls to possibly win his way into the Round of 8.
“We were just trying to get everything we could get,” he said. “You come into a race like this and you throw a couple Hail Mary’s and they rarely work, especially when you don’t have the car.
“I don’t know, it’s not just this race, it’s a whole season. It’s a culmination of things that led to this and led to our elimination. We knew it coming into this round that this was going to be the hardest round for us to get through. Pretty much impossible, and it was. We weren’t able to make up enough or get a win. We’ll just have to fight for a win here the rest of the year.”
Finishing sixth to start the Round of 12 at Las Vegas, a 27th-place crash result at Talladega last weekend set the two-time champ into hot water for a wet-weather start Sunday at the Roval.
And with a cut tire mid-race and a sharp decline in the final 20 laps, Busch admitted it was the continuation of a “terrible” year for the No. 18 team.
“Man, just one of them off-years. It’s been a terrible year for me,” he said. “As other sports greats would say, there [are] many other drivers that would love to have a year we’re having, but it’s just frustrating to know how good we are and what we’re capable of.
“Fact of the matter, if we could win, we would be a heck of a lot better off. I knew this round was going to be trouble with the year we had. I was right.”
With Elliott grabbing a fourth straight road course win in the series, Busch knew — even with fresh tires at the end — a win wasn’t in the cards.
“We probably would have been third or fourth or somewhere in there. The No. 9 was stellar,” he said. “They have the best car here. We got closer this year than we were last year. I felt like this was at least a decent run or a better run for us. Still have a lot of work to do to try to get better.”