Kyle Busch looked like he was in a good position to end his current winless drought, which now spans 21 races, Sunday at Phoenix. He lined up behind his teammate Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney — who each had only two fresh tires, while Busch had four fresh Goodyears on his No. 18 car.
However, when the race went back green for a three lap shootout for the win Busch was able to get around Blaney but he had nothing for Hamlin.
Busch winning would have ended his winless streak, but it would have also knocked his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate out of the Championship 4. This immediately led many NASCAR conspiracy theorists to believe Busch allowed Hamlin to walk away with the win in the closing laps, instead of pressing for the win himself.
To those who believe that, Busch says he was racing for nobody other than himself in the closing laps on Sunday.
“No, I was racing for me at that point,” Busch said following the race. “Denny was on the outside, had control of the restart and everything. I was trying to get by [Blaney] and do what I could. I heard for a moment we were three-wide in the corner, and I lost front grip because I went that low and just got dirt on my tires.”
Busch said once he lost grip on the initial restart, his four tires just didn’t have enough for Hamlin.
“Once that happened I couldn’t really get close enough to the 11,” said Busch. “Two tires is better than four.”
For those shaking their heads in disbelief of Busch claiming he didn’t let his teammate win, the driver of the No. 18 does make a point about the lack of fall off on the tires that NASCAR and Goodyear have been bringing to the track in 2019. Several times this season, drivers have complained that tires could have lasted approximately 2,000 laps between tire changes without seeing much of a difference.
There just doesn’t seem to be enough of a difference these days in old tires and new tires.
However, for those who still believe Busch aided Hamlin in his quest to make it into the Championship 4, rest assured there will be no team orders next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway as Hamlin, Busch and their other teammate Martin Truex Jr. battle Kevin Harvick for the Cup Series title.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.