DARLINGTON, SC — CONSIDERING how he and his mother were booed during driver introductions Saturday prior to the start of the Southern 500, it’s easy to conclude that Kyle Busch doesn’t have a large cadre of friends on the Sprint Cup circuit.
And when he is the direct cause of a Kasey Kahne wreck for the third time in one season, it becomes difficult to believe Busch holds Kahne in the high regard he claims to.
Busch dominated Saturday night’s race, leading for 265 laps, but for a breathless lap near the end, he was involved in a harrowing duel with Kahne, who had made a daring pass in turn three to briefly snatch the lead.
In response, Busch made an attempt of his own, running on the inside of Kahne through Darlington’s first turn with the intent of making a pass. History maintains such a notion to be ill-advised, and Busch proved history correct.
Busch attempted to maintain his speed through the turn, and Darlington punished him. Unable to maintain the left turn, Busch’s car slid up the track as he and Kahne exited the second turn. Busch narrowly missed connecting his right front quarterpanel with the rear of Kahne’s car, but the near miss was enough to disrupt the airflow. That caused Kahne’s car to stall and fish-tail into the wall.
“I think he just struggles racing me, and he just made an error as far as his entry,” Kahne said. “He entered so early and had no steering. You figure that out throughout the whole race. He passed so many lap cars he knew what was going to happen. He tried to stop but he couldn’t slow down at that point.
“I don’t know,” Kahne concluded. “He just kind of screwed up again. This is the third time this year he has screwed up.”
Kahne was able to pit, and his crew was able to keep him on the lead lap, but he was not a threat from that point forward, finishing sixth. Perhaps to be taken as a silver lining, Kahne did finish ahead of Busch, whose car seemed to run out of steam not long after his run-in with Kahne. Matt Kenseth, who was directly behind the two when the incident occurred, went on to win.
Nonetheless by Kahne’s reckoning, it was the third time this year — Daytona and last week’s race at Talladega being the other times — when he believed he had a winning car, only to be foiled by Busch.
“Well, he needs to quit,” Kahne said. “I mean, he’s just got to race me. I mean, I’ve never touched the guy in my life as far as on the race track. Three times this year, (and) there have been other times in other years. I don’t really know what his deal is with me. He blew that entry into (turn) one.”
Busch declined comment, but crew chief Dave Rogers said his driver was disappointed there was yet another incident with a driver he respects.
“He’s pretty tore up that they were racing hard and Kahne tore up another car,” Rogers said. “All of us over here have a ton of respect for that program.”
Kahne said he would not change the way he drives in an attempt to avoid further run-ins with Busch, but he said Busch would need to do some soul-searching to figure out why he tried such a maneuver at that point in the race.
“If he would have just entered like normal, the way he has entered the whole race, it would have been no issues and I would have been leading off (turn) two,” Kahne said. “He just didn’t want that to happen, so he blew turn one. So whether he hit me or not, he still caused that whole deal with screwing up.”
Busch called Kahne after the run-in at Talladega to apologize. Kahne figured history would repeat itself.
Said Kahne, “I imagine he will call me again tomorrow and say he’s sorry.”