DARLINGTON, S.C. – Denny Hamlin may have won Wednesday’s Toyota 500 at Darlington Raceway, but everyone was talking about Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott.
Busch and Elliott were involved in an incident that brought out what turned out to be the final caution flag of the evening when Busch made contact with Elliott’s left-rear down the frontstretch as they raced for second, which sent Elliott spinning out of control into the inside wall.
The incident ended Elliott’s night and left him visibly upset. So upset, in fact, that Elliott exited his car and waited for Busch to drive back by him so he could give him a one finger salute.
Rain stopped the race while the field circulated under caution, leaving Busch to finish second while his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Hamlin won the race.
Busch took full responsibility for the crash, saying he simply misjudged the timing needed to slip in behind Elliott as the two raced down the frontstretch at the 1.366-mile egg shaped oval.
“Obviously I just made a mistake, misjudged the gap, sent him into the wall,” Busch admitted. “That was entirely unintentional. I’ll definitely reach out to him and tell him I’m sorry, tell him I hate it that it happened. All I can do. That doesn’t change the outcome of the night.
“I hate it for him and his guys.”
Elliott’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson, had a brief conversation with Busch immediately after the race. He later said that he didn’t think Busch crashed his driver on purpose, but that didn’t take away the frustration of being involved in a crash late in the race while in a position to potentially win the race.
“I mean ultimately he (Busch) made a mistake and I get it,” Gustafson said. “I don’t think he intentionally wrecked us, but you just get tired of coming out on the wrong end of those deals too often. I certainly feel like we were in position to win that race. Denny (Hamlin) was in trouble on old tires and we were going to clear Kyle. You get tired of getting ran over like that. His explanation I’m sure is accurate, but it doesn’t change it. All these guys work their tails off on this NAPA Chevy and they deserve to win a race.”
Elliott hasn’t commented on the incident, though his usage of the middle finger immediately after the crash probably expresses everything he felt like he wanted to say in the aftermath of the crash.
Busch acknowledged that despite his apology, he knows that some form of payback is likely coming his way at some point in the future.
“They’re upset, they’re mad,” Busch said post-race. “I’m not just going to fix it and we’re going to go have ice cream tomorrow. Obviously they’re going to have to dwell on it and the repercussions of it I’m sure I’m going to have later on down the road.”