The second race of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup proved to be a tough one for Chase contender Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), after a late-race accident led to a 36th-place finish Sunday afternoon in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
Busch started 15th and raced as high as 11th by lap 40 following a two-tire pit stop, but a loose-in, tight-center and loose-off handling condition dropped the No. 41 car back to 16th by the second caution on lap 104. Busch brought the Haas Automation Chevrolet to pit road for a routine four-tire pit stop on lap 107, but a loose lugnut on the left-rear tire forced the team to make a return trip to pit road, dropping Busch from 14th to 24th for the restart.
The second pit stop under the caution also forced the No. 41 Chevrolet to the rear of the field behind several lapped cars for the restart on lap 112. The long green-flag run that followed resulted in Busch briefly losing a lap to the leaders on lap 161, but he was racing in the “Lucky Dog” position on lap 171 when the next caution flag waved, allowing him to regain lead-lap status. Busch stayed out to gain track position, moving from 21st to 14th as a flurry of four cautions came between the restart on lap 177 and lap 212.
The Las Vegas native brought the No. 41 to pit road for four fresh tires and several small adjustments during the lap-212 pit stop, dropping the team back to the 21st position as most of the field pitted for two tires. The four-tire call allowed Busch to make an aggressive move on the restart to jump from 21st to 16th, but when his front-right fender made contact with the left rear of another car, a tire rub hampered progress for the No. 41.
The tire rub led to a cut right-front tire on lap 223 and sent the No. 41 hard into the outside wall in turn 3. The incident resulted in heavy damage and forced the Haas Automation team to the garage for extensive repairs. Busch returned to the race 35 laps down to the leaders in the 37th position, then raced the No. 41 Chevrolet to gain one position and finish 36th.