Kyle Busch was a strong contender in the 30th running of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, winning the first of the five segments making up the Saturday night event. An accident in the second segment, however, ended the night for the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), resulting in a 21st-place finish.
Busch qualified second for the annual non-points race featuring drivers who met one of the following criteria:
- Won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in 2013 or 2014.
- Is a past All-Star Race winner.
- Is a Sprint Cup champion from the past 10 years.
- Won Friday night’s Sprint Showdown.
- Was the runner-up in the Sprint Showdown.
- Won the Sprint Fan Vote.
The 90-lap race around the 1.5-mile oval was broken up into five segments of 20 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps and featured a 22-driver field.
Busch started second and took over the top spot on lap 10 after a brief battle with polesitter Carl Edwards. Busch led a total of 11 circuits around the track to win the first 20-lap segment, even though the M&M’s Toyota was a bit free all around the track. The team made a chassis adjustment during the caution between segments to provide more grip, changed four tires and added fuel. A handful of drivers elected to take right-side tires only during the trip to pit road, which placed Busch in fifth place for the restart, the first driver with four new tires.
Having to start behind the cars with only two new tires created a traffic jam that forced Busch to try and find the best lane to navigate around the slower cars. He lost a handful of positions in the process and was ultimately avoiding a slower car when he made contact with Clint Bowyer that sent him spinning into the outside retaining wall. Busch walked away but would be scored with a 21st-place finish.
“I was just trying to run the high side, and I had a good run through (turns) one and two, but off turn two Kurt (Busch) got real bottled up on the outside and slowed down, so I knew I was clear to go to the bottom,” explained Busch, who was making his ninth start in the annual All-Star race. “I swooped down to try to get underneath Bowyer. When I did he blocked me and I hit him, which got him squirrely. I was still under him when it hit me and turned me around the wrong way on the backstretch and got in the outside wall. I really hate that we’re out this early, but you’re trying to race hard and protect that average finish that you’re supposed to have for the last segment. You’re trying to pass as many cars as you can, and I was going to get by two right there getting into turn three but it just didn’t work out. Those are the chances you have to take in the All-Star Race.”