Kyle Busch trying to stave off elimination; Allmendinger wins Xfinity race
Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 11, 2020
By Jenna Fryer
AP Auto Racing Writer
CONCORD — Kyle Busch, to be clear, was only venting when he said he’d be knocked out of the playoffs this round. The reigning Cup champion insisted he was frustrated and flippant when he wrote off his season.
“I wouldn’t be continuing to go to the racetrack each and every week and pouring my heart and soul into this and taking time away from my family if I didn’t care,” Busch said. “That’s tongue-in-cheek talk and should be known as that, coming from me, obviously.
“It is what it is, and we’re going to go on this week and fight like hell and try to make it through.”
Here he is on the verge of elimination headed into today’s race on the hybrid road course-oval at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch is 21 points below the cutoff line and could become the first reigning champion eliminated in the round of 12 when four are trimmed from the field.
At stake is his bid to become the first driver to win consecutive titles since Jimmie Johnson won five straight from 2006-2010. Busch also would lose his five-year streak of advancing to the championship race, but even worse, his run of at least one win every year since his 2005 rookie season is in serious danger.
Busch doesn’t need to win on the “Roval” to advance, but there’s only five races remaining for him to improve his season. Just one win will tie him for third on the all-time list at 16 consecutive seasons with Ricky Rudd, Rusty Wallace and Johnson.
“It’s really important. Think about it, it’s a 16-year investment,” Busch said. “It would be nice if I’m able to keep winning races all the way through my career each and every single year that I’m out there.”
Only Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch, Kyle’s older brother, are locked into the round of eight. Below the cutline with Busch are Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer, who recently announced he’s moving to the Fox Sports booth at the end of this season.
The task today is not just excelling on Charlotte’s hybrid course, which was designed as a unique venue in 2018 specifically to enhance the playoffs, but also to adjust to adverse weather. The forecast calls for an 80% chance for rain.
The Cup Series has never raced in the rain and Goodyear on Saturday offered an explainer on the four sets of tires each team will have today. The tires most closely compare to the consumer Eagle F1 all-season Goodyear tire and Juan Pablo Montoya assisted on their final development 10 years ago.
Allmendinger wins Xfinity race in rain
AJ Allmendinger splashed his way through a torrential rainstorm that turned Charlotte Motor Speedway into a slip-and-slide Saturday to win the Xfinity Series race on the hybrid “Roval.”
Allmendinger won for the second time this season in 10 starts for Kaulig Racing. He’s easily the most experienced NASCAR driver at both road course racing and driving in wet conditions — Allmendinger has a long career in multiple formulas, including sports cars and open-wheel, which both race in the rain.
“I don’t know what we just witnessed,” Allmendinger said. “I was complaining the whole race. That was miserable. Crazy. Those conditions, to me, it’s not a lot of fun.
“I thought at times it was dangerous, the hydroplaning. At times I thought we should have stopped it.”
Allmendinger’s victory in near darkness on a soaking wet track ended a sloppy race marred by multiple slides through standing water. It was an elimination race for the Xfinity Series playoffs and Harrison Burton, Brandon Brown, Michael Annett and Riley Herbst were knocked from title contention.
Allmendinger had a short celebration before he had to transition to NBC Sports’ booth to call IMSA’s debut on Charlotte’s purpose-built Roval.
Allmendinger and Xfinity Series championship leader Chase Briscoe, the defending Roval winner, had a spirited race for the victory. Briscoe took the lead from Allmendinger with four laps remaining in regulation but Allmendinger grabbed it back at the start of overtime.
As Allmendinger surged to the front, Briscoe spun and slipped to an 18th-place finish.
“Driver mistake,” Briscoe said. “In conditions like this you’ve got to be 100%. I tried to go 110 and it bit me. That one is going to sting for a long time.”