DARLINGTON, S.C. — When the caution flew with 26 laps to go, Kyle Busch was seemingly on track to win his second race of the 2022 season. He had dominated Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500 until that point, winning Stage 2 and leading six times for a total of 155 laps.
Busch pitted for service alongside the other lead lap cars and came off pit road first. He prepared for what could be the final restart, but suddenly, smoke began billowing out of his No. 18 Toyota Camry.
Busch came down pit road and surrendered his lead to Erik Jones. He pulled straight into the garage and exited his car, ending his hopes of a playoff-opening victory.
“Engine broke. Just unfortunate circumstances for us tonight,” Busch said. “The guys did a great job and brought a really fast M&M’s Toyota Camry. Just real proud of the effort. All the stuff the guys have done and gone through – just all the news and everything that’s going on all year. They’ve dug in and never given up and continue. Just had a great car and don’t have anything to show for it. That’s what I really, really hate about it.
“Had a lot of fun being up front, leading laps like that and show what we’re made of. I just hate that we can’t finish with the points we need.”
A win for Busch would’ve been the 61st of his career and would’ve punched his ticket into the second round of the playoffs. It could have also served as a distraction from his ongoing contract negotiations, which Busch told reporters could soon be reaching a conclusion. On playoff media day, he said multiple teams have offers on the table and that he could potentially have a decision within seven to 1o days.
Meanwhile, Busch ended up actually gaining ground despite a 30th-place finish. He maintained 11th in points, but his margin over the cutline grew from four to eight.
However, Busch wasn’t the only JGR driver to suffer from an engine failure. Just laps before Busch’s engine expired, Martin Truex Jr.’s did the same after losing a water pump belt. Truex led at the time.
“I lost power steering and the car started overheating real quick and losing power,” Truex said. “We deserve better and no matter what we do this year it seems wrong. When we run good, stuff goes wrong and when we run bad, nothing happens. Just one of those years that we can’t get anything to go our way.”
Despite having a consistent season, Truex is winless and missed the playoffs by just three points last weekend at Daytona. He has 12 top-10s and an average finish of 13.9.
Toyota Racing Development will send the engines from both cars to its facility in Costa Mesa, California for an inspection.
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Kansas Speedway on Sunday for the Hollywood Casino 4oo. The race is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on USA Network. Kurt Busch won the spring race.