As Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch sent Atlanta Motor Speedway’s aged surface out with one more thrilling race to the end on Sunday (July 10), both drivers had to carefully navigate lapped traffic, a factor magnified by the absence of a caution flag in the final stage.
Kurt Busch went on to win, and in the mind of Kyle Busch, the race’s second-place finisher, Ross Chastain provided more help than he should have.
A terse Kyle Busch took issue with Chastain following Sunday’s race, alleging that he held up the driver of the No. 18 Toyota on purpose. Chastain finished a lap down in the 21st position.
“No question, man. He turned right in order to get in front of me,” Kyle Busch said.
Busch not only claimed that Chastain deliberately held him up, but also felt that it cost him a better chance of a win.
“I think it’s a hell of a lot better race, yeah. For two whole laps, I just killed the tires trying to get turned underneath him,” Kyle Busch said. “You just can’t change directions. And when I tried to change direction, he watches his mirror and change direction with me. So you just stomp on the brake and air block. It’s pathetic.”
So did Kurt Busch ask for help from his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate? Absolutely.
“Our car was really good on the bottom and we radio’d to the 42 spotter, give us the bottom,” Kurt Busch said.
Chastain offered no apologies for the way that he handled the closing laps.
“I was aware of what was going on around me. He [Kurt Busch] asked for the bottom and I gave it to him,” Chastain said.
“If the guy that loses gets mad, OK. I’m doing everything I can do to stay in the sport and am driving as hard as I can, and staying on the lead lap is part of that,” he added.
Also on Chastain’s mind? Needing to stay in postion for the free pass in case a caution was to come out late in the race. Chastain is currently 19th in the points standings.
“It’s everything at that point, it doesn’t matter how the car is handling, it’s literally doing everything you can to prolong it,” Chastain said.
From Kurt Busch’s standpoint, there was nothing unethical about how the final laps played out, even if it came at his own sibling’s expense.
“He did stop by victory lane and do the Kyle Busch grump, which I expect,” Kurt Busch said. “What happened on the track was the perfect scenario for a teammate to do the work that he needed to do. If I am running third, Ross is not part of the equation. That was exactly what a teammate needs to do, and Ross did that in a way that gave me a sense of pride on the education and mentorship that I have helped Ross with this year as a perfect give-back.
“Can we do that in playoffs? No. Can you do that in the regular season when one guy has won and one is running hard? Today is a perfect scenario for that to unfold and Kyle will get over it pretty quickly.”