LAS VEGAS – Though he put on a valiant rally through much of Sunday night’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch was left none too pleased after the checkered flag waved.
Busch, who was last in the 39-car field and two laps down after early contact with the outside wall in turn two forced him to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 11, caught a couple of breaks and converted a pair of wave-arounds into what was shaping up to be a solid night in the playoff opener.
Busch’s second wave around returned him to the lead lap for the start of the final stage, and then he leveled out with the rest of the field when older brother Kurt cut a tire and pounded the wall on lap 189, allowing Kyle to pit for fresh tires and be back on sequence with the rest of the frontrunners.
After that came a drive through traffic which saw Kyle Busch climb to as high as sixth place, but his No. 18 Toyota could not avoid the lapped car of Garrett Smithley in the final laps. Busch ran into the back of the slower No. 52 and ended up with significant front-end damage that sent him backwards.
With the gains he made earlier in the final stage negated, Busch limped home to a 19th-place finish at his home track.
Of note, prior to the race, retired NFL star Marshawn Lynch swapped helmets with Busch before serving as the honorary pace car driver for Sunday’s race in Las Vegas.
Afterward, Busch took a page out of Lynch’s playbook when speaking to reporters at the post-race media bullpen.
“I’m only here so I don’t get fined,” Busch said three times in a short interview session.
Asked what happened with Smithley, Busch was quick to fire back with, “don’t know,” but that the contact “killed it” in regard to his race car.
Busch later expanded on the incident when he was interviewed by NBCSN before leaving pit road.
“I was told he (Smithley) was going to go high, (and I) thought he was going to go high, (but) he went middle because I thought he was going to go high, and it killed our day,” Busch told Parker Kligerman. “I don’t know. We should have run fourth probably, but instead (we’re) 19th.
“We’re the top echelon of motorsports and we’ve got guys that have never won late model races running out here on the race track. It’s pathetic. They don’t know where to go, so what else do you do?”
Smithley later defended how he drove the final laps.
“I watched the video, I held my line,” Smithley said. “The 24 (William Byron) went under me and the 88 (Alex Bowman) went to the outside of me. He (Busch) had a faster car and could have gone around.”
Busch, who won the regular-season title and entered the playoffs with 45 bonus points, dropped from leading the points to fourth after teammate Martin Truex Jr. won the event, but is still in solid playoff position thanks to the points he banked prior to the start of the playoffs.
He left the track swiftly, but not without a pointed one-liner to Kligerman before doing so.
“It’s pathetic to have to lean on insurance,” Busch said of the bonus points. “My premiums are going to go up.”