Kyle Busch's hopes of a championship were potentially dashed in Sunday's Price Chopper 400 when David Reutimann appeared to purposely slam into Busch in an apparent retaliation for incident earlier in the race.
Busch was running near the top 10 at the time of the incident, but the contact with Reutimann caused serious damage to his car. Busch wound up 21st, which knocked him from third to seventh in the standings.
The incident brings up a question that's been asked ever since the Chase format began in 2004: Is it OK to pay back a driver who is racing for a championship?
Reutimann's answer after the race was, in a word, absolutely, especially considering the circumstances leading up to the payback.
"He wrecked me. He just drove over me," Reutimann explained of the earlier incident in which Busch got into the back of Reutimann, spinning him hard into the wall. "I'm on the bottom of the racetrack. He's got the whole top of the racetrack to go to and he run over me. I got wrecked.
"I'm going to put it to you this way: I don't care if you're in the Chase or not, you need to think about who you're running over when you're running over them," Reutimann said. "I don't care who you are. If you're in the Chase you have as much responsibility to drive guys with respect as I do with everybody else. So you know what, I don't know what to tell you guys. If you want me to feel bad about what happened today, yeah I feel bad. Yeah, but our car got wrecked and that ruined our day. That's what I feel bad about."
After the race, Busch admitted that Reutimann's spin was his fault, but didn't feel it warranted payback.
"The guy was loose," Busch said. "He said it on the radio and slid up off the bottom and I got into him unintentionally and spun him out. My fault 100 percent. Then the retaliation.
"For a guy that's in the Chase and that's racing for something... You know, he'll be here next year. He could have wrecked me in the first 26 races next year. That would have been fine."
Busch now sits 80 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, but the damage could have been a lot worse. Intially Busch thought he needed to take his car to the garage for repairs, but crew chief Dave Rogers surmised they'd be better off trying to fix what they could on pit road and see if Busch could just ride it out, which he was able to.
After a brief meltdown leveled toward Reutimann — at one point Busch said he was going to schedule a meeting with NASCAR if Reutimann wasn't penalized — Busch composed himself, talking with Rogers about what repairs they needed to make, then thanking his crew over the radio for their work on the car.
(After the race, Busch backed off his stance that Reutimann should be penalized)
"We salvaged the best we could, but still far off from where we could have been," Busch said.