Busch wrecked by Riggs on second lap
LOUDON, N.H. -- A second-lap crash cost defending NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Kurt Busch dearly Sunday, relegating him to a 35th-place finish and last place in the Chase for the Nextel Cup.
Busch, one of 10 drivers qualified for the 10-race title playoff, started 12th in the 43-car field and was running side-by-side with Scott Riggs when Riggs appeared to lose control of his car, slid up into Busch's No. 97 Ford and sent it spinning into the outside wall between turns one and two on the banked 1.058-mile oval at New Hampshire International Speedway.
Busch, who began his championship drive last year with a victory here, drove the battered Roush Racing entry back to his garage with smoke enveloping the car and water and other fluids spewing onto the track. The sometimes volatile Busch scrambled quickly from his car and walked swiftly out of the garage and along pit row, NASCAR officials and members of the media trailing behind like an odd parade.
He strode straight to Riggs' pit, halfway down pit row, climbed up on the pit box and spoke for several seconds with Riggs' crew chief Rodney Childers. He then walked quickly back to the garage, where his team was working feverishly to try to repair the badly damaged car.
They were able to get Busch back into the race, but 66 laps behind the leaders. Attrition in the race allowed him to move from last to 35th, netting an extra 24 points that left Busch 142 behind leader Tony Stewart, who finished second.
Riggs "started off the race too loose and he got into us and it's tough to have that happen so early in the race," Busch said. "We didn't even get a chance to show our potential.
"It's just unfortunate. There's guy you can race with, there's guys you can't. And he really doesn't know where he is most of the time. At Indy, he pinched me down and we into one another. He wrecked Sterling Marlin at California."
Asked what he said to Childers, Busch said: "I just wanted to tell his crew chief that he started the car way too loose so, hopefully, they don't hurt anybody else in the Chase."
Childers said Busch spoke to him calmly.
"They've had some past experiences with stuff," Childers said. "He took us out at Indy and we forgave them. This was an accident and he'll have to forgive us. I feel sorry for those guys. I know they're in the Chase."
Riggs, who finished 28th, one lap behind winner Ryan Newman, was not penalized by NASCAR. When told that Busch thought the crash was payback for Indy, he said, "It sounds to me like he just has a guilty conscience."
Busch, who started the day fifth in the standings, just 20 points behind Stewart, said this just makes things a little more difficult.
"Now we have to go and attack each race for a win," he said. "We have to go to Dover [Del. next Sunday] and expect to win and try to build our points back up."
NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said Busch was not summoned to the NASCAR hauler because "he told our officials what he was going to do and he conducted himself in a professional manner."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press