By Jim Pedley. Special to the NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- During an early week teleconference with the media, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch said that he viewed Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway as his second-biggest test in the 2013 Chase.
Turns out Busch may have under-estimated the difficulty of the Kansas "test". His weekend started badly with a crash in practice on Saturday morning and ended worse as he crashed out of the race on lap 200 on Sunday afternoon..
"Just like any other Kansas day," Busch said as he exited the infield care center after his race-ending crash.
Busch, third in points and just 12 behind leader Matt Kenseth upon arriving at the 1.5-mile Kansas oval, headed out of the tunnel late Sunday seventh in points and 47 points behind Kenseth.
Asked to assess his championship chances, Busch said with jaw tightly clenched, "Certainly hinders them."
Kansas Speedway has been a place where Busch's championship hopes have taken severe beatings since, basically, forever. His best finish in 13 starts at the track is seventh - that finish coming back in 2006.
His average finish was 22.4 heading onto the track on Sunday. His DNF on Sunday afternoon was his third in a row at Kansas.
Kansas? Not a good place for Busch under any circumstances. Sunday in cold weather, on a recently repaved track and on new Goodyear right-side tires that feature treads with different rubber compounds on the same tire? The worst, Busch said.
"The race track is the worst race track I've ever driven on, the tires are the worst tires I've ever driven on and track position is everything, you can't do anything unless you're out front," Busch said. "I mean you get back in traffic - Kevin Harvick couldn't pass me, he led the first 80 laps of the race - so I'd say it's pretty pathetic."
After his Saturday morning crash - a crash in which he simply spun out - Busch gave up an already shaky starting spot of 18th as he had to change cars.
Things immediately got even worse once the race started as he was involved in a wreck on the very first lap. Busch spun but was able to continue. He pitted a couple of times under yellow, was hit with a penalty for having too many crew members over the wall and restarted 40th.
He trudged on running well behind the leaders.
Busch and his team took a gamble on lap 136 when he stayed out under caution and moved from 24th to second place.
Asked by his pit box if he wanted to stay out and see how No. 18 Camry would do in clean air, Busch said over his radio, "Haven't had any (clean air) yet, might as well try it."
Busch ran near the front until he pitted under caution on lap 169 and fell back to 16th as he had to take four new tires.
Then, two laps after a restart on lap 187, Busch went low onto the front stretch apron. Problem was, Juan Pablo Montoya was going for the same portion of apron and hit Busch from behind. Busch got sideways and skidded right-side door panel forward down the track.
Asked about that incident, Busch, so frustrated he could not speak in complete sentences, said, "Ran into me. I don't just spin out down the front straightway on my own, do I?"
On lap 200, Busch had his race-ending wreck.
"I have no idea what happened on the last one," Busch said. "All I know is that we're in Kansas, right?"
There are still six races left in this year's Chase. The first being next weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Team owner Joe Gibbs headed away from the care center after Busch's final wreck with head hanging a bit low. Asked about strategy the rest of the way, he said there can be only one.
"We're going to have to race it out," Gibbs said. "Hopefully this is the only bad day we'll have."
Thankfully it's the only Kansas race they'll have until next spring.