A 26-point cushion going into Sunday’s Contender Round elimination race at Talladega Superspeedway was not enough to keep Kyle Busch in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
A crash at Lap 102 collected Busch at the back of the pack and effectively ruined what had been a strong post-season for “Rowdy.” Going into ‘Dega, he’d rattled off five Top-10s in five Chase races and Top-5s in the last two.
But Busch’s 40th-place finish on Sunday dropped him seven points behind the cutoff for the Eliminator Round. It’s a tough way to go out, but his crew chief, Dave Rogers – who spoke to the media while Busch made no comments himself following the race – says there’s no point in complaining about the new Chase format that placed the unpredictable ‘Dega as the second of three cut races.
“It’s a fair format because they give us the rules before the Daytona 500,” Rogers said. “They told us what the rules were and we all signed up the play. I love this game and I love playing this sport. They can change the rules every year and the points format — that’s none of my business.
“I just have to read the rules and try to perform at our best according to them. I’m bitter and I’m discouraged, but I’m not going to sit here and say it’s unfair. The rules are the rules — they didn’t change them halfway through Talladega. Nothing to complain about there.”
And just as Rogers accepts the format, he also accepts that things can change instantly at NASCAR’s wildest speedway.
“It’s not a shock [not to advance] — you’re just here at Talladega and you know things can happen,” he said. “It happens. It’s not a shock, but on the other hand, it’s by no means an indication of what this race team is about.”
The championship may be out of reach, but Rogers, Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing camp can prove what they’re about by doing well in the final four races of the season.
It’s a stretch that Rogers looks forward to running with Busch, who he says has stepped up as a leader for the team during the post-season even as things haven’t always gone their way.
“We’ve had a couple things go against us — getting the nose knocked off at Loudon, today, and Kyle’s done a really good job of biting his lip and just backing the race team to let us do our job,” he said.
“Kyle, I can’t say enough good about him. I’m really proud of him. It’s been a lot of fun working with him and we’re not done yet. We can’t win the championship, but we can still advance in points and work our way up to fifth. We’re going to go to Martinsville working hard and we’re going to try to win all these races.”