Stage racing is creating a need for a new gentlemen’s agreement on the race track – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch found themselves at odds over racing ethics following the conclusion of the second stage of the STP 500.
Busch was leading the race and looked to have secured himself 10 extra season points and one playoff point by winning stage two. Over the course of the last 20 or so laps of the stage Busch went to work on Stenhouse to send him a lap down. The driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford wasn’t having it, he knew within a matter of laps the green and checkered flag would fly and if he let Busch by he couldn’t be certain he would be the lucky dog as there was a multitude of contenders just ahead of him.
Stenhouse did a great job of blocking and taking away Busch’s lane, all while trying to get around other traffic. A few laps preceding the end of the stage Busch made the pass, but there was still traffic in front of him and Stenhouse wasn’t being left by the way side. In turn three of the final lap Stenhouse gave the leader a bump, opening his avenue to darted under the No. 18 and gained his lap back.
In the process Chase Elliott snuck by Busch on exit, suddenly Busch had lost an invaluable playoff point.
After climbing from his car Stenhouse said, “I didn’t mean to give up the win for him there in that stage, but you know it’s what we had to do.”
If Stenhouse thinks this is far game he should know Busch agrees “if you expect it back.” Still, Stenhouse was on a mission. He finished tenth for his first top-10 at the paperclip, creating “huge momentum” and is “almost like a win for (his team).”
Of course, Busch saw things a bit differently, “I actually was rolling into Turn 3 and was kind of going higher out of my way in order to let the 17 back by and give him the lap. That was my intent, and then he just drove through me. It cost me my spot to the 24, so I was hoping that I could run off the corner side by side with the 17 and keep the 24 at bay and just keep my nose in front of his and be able to score the segment, and I was trying to be a nice guy, but nice guys don’t finish first.
Stage racing created this moment, normally Stenhouse “Wouldn’t make that move at all, you respect the leader, but knowing the caution is coming in a lap or two you’ve to go for it.”
Busch gets it, but we won’t be forgetting. “I mean, they were doing everything they could in order to stay on the lead lap, but you know, when you’ve got the leader to your outside and you just keep banging him off the corner, that’s pretty disrespectful, but do whatever you want. You know, it’s going to come back and bite you one of these days. You’ve just got to always remember race car drivers are like elephants; they remember everything.”