Categories: Sports News

Kurt Busch faces must-win to reach NASCAR Championship 4 after early Kansas exit

Sports Pulse: NASCAR driver Kurt Busch on what Michael Jordan can expect coming into the sport.

USA TODAY

The likelihood that Kurt Busch would need to win one of the three races in the Round of 8 to advance into the championship round of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs became a reality after a blown engine Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

Busch exited the Hollywood Casino 400 just shy of the 200-lap mark when the power unit in his Chip Ganassi Racing No.1 Chevrolet detonated going into Turn 1. A few laps prior, Busch, who was running inside the top five, had begun telling his team he could smell something in the car and felt he was losing power as he lost positions on the leaderboard.

The 2004 champion had long exited his car when Joey Logano punched his ticket to the Championship 4 after a thrilling battle with Kevin Harvick in the closing laps. Now Busch will almost certainly need to rely on a victory next week at Texas Motor Speedway or in two weeks at Martinsville Speedway to make another run at a championship.

Kurt Busch faces must-win to reach NASCAR Championship 4 after early Kansas exit

Kurt Busch suffered a blown engine in the playoff race at Kansas Speedway, putting him in a deep hole to advance to the Championship 4. (Photo: Gerry Broome, Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network)

“Yeah, usually there’s no warning,” said Busch. “Everything is so buttoned-up these days in the engine department. I haven’t seen an engine problem in years. No fault of anybody at Hendrick engines; we’re running hard here. We were running top-five, and there’s a ton of RPM down the front straightaway with the tailwind. We were right in the mix. We were doing the deal. I just couldn’t quite clear some guys to get into that top three or four, and then our car would come back to us on the long run after about lap 30.

“It’s a shame for everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing. Having an engine failure in the Playoffs – it’s just like a huge parachute that slows you up. We’ll pack that parachute up, throw it away, and we’ll go to Texas to win. We knew we were going to have to win either here or Texas. Martinsville, we have a shot at it, too. The odds are stacked against us, but hey, we’re in the top eight for a reason. I have a great crew chief, Matt McCall, and we’ll bounce back. … It’s just one of those things where you have an engine failure, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

The race had been unfolding well for Busch before the blown engine. He was running seventh at the competition caution on lap 25 but was busted for speeding, which kept him from earning stage points. However, Busch drove back through the field and finished the second stage, on lap 160, in ninth place.

Going into the first race of the semifinal round, Busch was 21 points below the cutline. But after his 38th-place finish at Kansas, Busch dropped to 73 points below Brad Keselowski, who sits just above the cutline following Logano's win.

(Through 7 of 10 race; x-clinched berth in Championship 4)

1. Kevin Harvick, 4,115

2. Denny Hamlin, 4,094

3. Brad Keselowski, 4,082

4. Chase Elliott, 4,074

x-5. Joey Logano, 4,064

6. Alex Bowman, 4,055

7. Martin Truex Jr., 4,051

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