Busch, the 2019 Cup champion, was eliminated from contention for this season's title after a 30th-place finish at Sunday's Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the final race of the Round of 12 of the playoffs. A pit strategy call that kept him on track while nearly every other auto in the field pitted late in the race gave Busch the lead, but with older tires on his Toyota he simply didn't have the pace to retain the lead. The left-front tire of his No. 18 Toyota went flat after he made contact with Clint Bowyer on Lap 49 (the final lap of the race's second stage).
He acknowledged the mental toll of this disappointing year and didn't rule out personnel changes for his team. Bowyer, who this week said he's retiring at the end of the season and will move to the television booth, was taken to the care center for treatment of an undisclosed ailment after the race. The 35-year-old has won at least one race every season since he started full-time racing in 2005. But his inability to win this season finally caught up with him Sunday at Charlotte.
Elliott will try to take that momentum into the round of eight, which he advanced to for the fourth-straight year.
Along with Elliott, Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin advance in the playoffs based on race wins in the second three-race round. As other sports greats could say there are many other drivers that would love to have a year that we're having. "Looking forward to the opportunity and looking to make some noise".
Busch's goal now is to win a race, something that uncharacteristically has stayed out of his reach this season. When Busch didn't pit, Bowman nervously asked his Hendrick Motorsports team if he was about to be eliminated. "You come into a race like this, and you throw a couple Hail Mary's, and they rarely work, especially when you don't have the auto". It's a cutoff week, stressful.
In a season where nothing has seemed to go right, it was just another moment of frustration for Busch. His second win on Charlotte's oval/infield road course hybrid circuit made him the first multi-race victor in three races at the track. "I feel like road courses have been fortunate to us the last few trips, but I feel like we just try to get a little better every time and tweak on the small things".
Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-five.
Busch stated after the September 19 event at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway that he would be eliminated in the next round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
At one point during the race he cut down a tire during a restart, dropping him to the tail of the field.
Drivers stressed about the potential conditions, particularly as heavy rains soaked the speedway in the hours leading into the race. Man, just one of them off years.
Charlotte brought it additional lights because it was too dark through the infield during the Xfinity race but they were not needed despite all the consternation.