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Kyle Busch out early after Gateway crash with Kyle Larson

Kyle Busch out early after Gateway crash with Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch crashed on the final lap of Stage 2 in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

The pair of past champions were running inside the top 10 before the incident.

RELATED: Race results

Larson was racing to the left of Busch on entry to Turn 1 when his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet snapped sideways. That slide led him directly into Busch, who slammed the outside SAFER barrier in Turn 2. The incident ended Busch’s day after the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet led 15 laps, his first circuits out front since Kansas on May 5.

Busch, the defending winner at Gateway, instead leaves with his first DNF of the season and first since the playoff race in September 2023 at Texas Motor Speedway.

“It looked like he got loose, I guess, down the front straightaway into Turn 1,” Busch told reporters after being evaluated and released from the infield care center. “He was on older tires and trying to get us for a spot. Not sure what that single point was really gonna mean for him, but certainly hurt us a lot because (it) took that point away as well as the others that we’d get for the stage and then also the rest of the day. So very frustrating.

“We can’t afford days like that,” continued Busch, who exits Gateway with his fourth finish of 15th or worse in the past six races. “The Rebel Camaro wasn’t what it was last year, but it was a top-10 car, and we were gonna finish there. But (now) we’re not going to finish at all.”

MORE: Watch Busch’s post-crash interview

While Busch finished 35th, Larson, a two-time winner this year, continued despite the contact and finished 10th. The 2021 Cup champion missed last week’s Coca-Cola 600 after participating in the Indianapolis 500, with weather thwarting his attempt at the 1,100-mile double.

“We were coming to the end of that stage, and I was a little bit better than him,” Larson told reporters post-race. “Left (Turn) 4 to side-draft him and barely touched his quarter panel. I don’t know. I’m guessing it ticked him off, and he squeezed into me. I honestly thought I had a flat (tire) when I went into 1 because it just turned around backwards, but I guess he just must’ve took the air off of me and just spun.”

Contributing: Dustin Albino