Posted: 2:12 p.m. Sunday, May 12, 2013
By Jordan Bianchi
It was a race he had dominated to the point it wouldn't have been a surprise if Kyle Busch's name wasn't already being engraved on the Southern 500 trophy.
However, despite leading 265 of a possible 367 laps Busch didn't win Saturday night at Darlington Raceway. Instead, a commanding lead mysteriously vanished in the closing stages as the No. 18 car become ordinary.
In rapid succession Matt Kenseth, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, got by him and drove away for the win. Followed by Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick as Busch dealt with a car that wouldn't turn. He finished sixth.
Busch was dumfounded, shouting to his crew that he had "never been this disgusted in my life."
How could a car that was so superior to become average?
Could it have been the slight contact Busch had with Kasey Kahne as the two battled for the lead with 33 laps remaining? Was it another engine-related issue in a season filled with them for Joe Gibbs Racing?
It wasn't until the race was over and Busch had left the garage without speaking to reporters that the culprit was identified as a cut right-rear tire.
According to crew chief Dave Rogers, the tire had only 12-pounds of air when Busch pulled into the garage.
That Busch was able to finish the race at all was extraordinary. But on a night where he seemed destined to win his second Southern 500 -- one of NASCAR's most prestigious events -- there was no solace in finishing sixth.
"Man, it's crushing when you lead all day like that and don't come home with a win, especially if it's something that you get a flat tire or something," said Kenseth. "Really disappointing."