Late caution changes the fate of many drivers

LEBANON, Tennessee — Ryan Blaney said thank you. Martin Truex said sorry. Kyle Busch said, “It’s getting bad.”

A late warning saw some of the best cars of the race going to the pit lane with no chance of winning, while others, including some who struggled, were left out and up front for a four-lap shootout.

The easiest decision was by the eventual winner Chase Elliot and crew chief Alan Gustafson. Elliott was leading when the warning came for Josh Bilickic‘s blown engine with eight laps to go at Nashville Superspeedway.

Kyle Busch came in second, Denny Hamlin third, Truex fourth and Ross Chastain was fifth at the time.

Those four each pitted, although that wasn’t the way it was supposed to go.

Crew chief James Small said Truex was supposed to stay out if he could restart in the front row. With Busch and Hamlin pitting, Truex would have restarted alongside Elliott in the front row by staying out. Instead, he pitted.

Small said Truex apologized for pitting. Truex restarted 14th and finished 22nd.

Busch had lost the lead to Elliott at the previous restart when Busch had the track choice. After Elliott was over, Busch couldn’t come close to the challenge. Often teams do the opposite of the leader. With Elliott staying out, Busch pitted. As for the exact reasoning, crew chief Ben Beshore declined to comment after the race.

Busch was the first car outside the pits after changing only the right tires. When told that he was the only car to have changed two tires, he made his comment on the radio about how difficult it was going to be. He was right. Busch restarted 12th and finished 21st.

Among those who did not peel off the pit lane was Kurt Busch† He was sixth at the warning and restarted second behind Elliott. But Elliott quickly got past Kurt Busch and was not challenged.

“I grew weak for him,” Kurt Busch said of Elliott. “I should have thrown some fenders and got some momentum. I didn’t stick with our strength.”

Still, he finished second.

Ryan Blaney was ninth when the warning waved and moved into third for the restart by staying out. That’s where he finished, completing a chaotic night where he ran up front early, struggled with handling, spin on lap 205 and finished with a top-five finish.

“I was surprised there were so many seeds,” said Blaney. “Tires didn’t mean much tonight, especially for the first handful of laps it didn’t mean much. Our plan was to stay with us anyway. … Then I saw a lot of cars coming into the pits. I was quite shocked.

“To finish in the second row, with a small chance of trying to make something happen at the end of the race. Ended up with a good chance”

Kyle Larson was fourth when the warning waved and didn’t pit. He finished fourth.

Chastain used his four new tires to move from eleventh to fifth, the car with the highest finish coming to the pits before the final restart.

“As soon as we got into Turn 1, we had traction,” said Chastain. “I have to (Cole Custer)’s rear bumper and pushed it as long as I could. I wanted to try tandem and help him and help me.

“I stuck out and had clean air and then just avoided a road there and held back some guys on the last lap to hold onto fifth. It’s kind of where the seas parted in turns 1 and 2 on fresh tires. ”

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