Busch finished second to Martin Truex Jr after a spirited battle over the final 18 laps around Homestead-Miami Speedway.
But after climbing from his No. 18 Toyota, Busch’s mind was on Logano.
“I had to fight way too hard with some other guys trying to get back up through there, but that’s racing,” Busch said. “Battling with (Logano) there. Just wasting too much time with him. He held me up. He was there blocking every chance he got, so got a real buddy there, but that’s racing. That’s what happens.”
The final restart of the championship race occurred with 34 laps to go and Busch starting third behind Truex, Kevin Harvick and in the same row as Logano.
Busch fell back to fifth on the restart, putting Logano in his way.
It took until there was 25 laps to go for Busch to get back by Logano and set his sights on Harvick. Busch passed the No. 4 Ford seven laps later to set up his duel with Truex.
Logano would finish sixth for his fifth top 10 of the playoffs.
Logano’s crew chief, Todd Gordon, defended his driver while appearing on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”
“You have to race everybody hard,” Gordon said. “It is a race and it’s a race with 40 people. There’s four that are racing for a championship. When Kyle finally got to the inside of him, he let him go. Like I said, we were racing hard to try to hold onto a third-place finish. You can’t ever just lay over and give up because you never know when the next caution comes. Our fire-off speed for the first five laps, I would argue we were better than anybody.”
Gordon cited the 2016 finale, when Jimmie Johnson used late cautions to put himself in a position to win the championship.
“You can’t ever give up,” Gordon said. “We’re all programmed to be racers and you never know where the opportunity comes to have a restart. If you looked to last year, I don’t think the 48 was the fastest car, but by the time he got done with a couple of restarts he wound up winning the championship.”
The strong finish capped off a disappointing year for the Team Penske crew. Logano failed to make the playoffs after his April win at Richmond was encumbered because his car failed post-race inspection.
Logano finished in the top 10 twice in the next 10 races and just 17 times over the season. He finished the year 17th in points, the highest driver among those that didn’t make the playoffs.
“Definitely wanted to send this 22 team off with strong finish and a possibility of a win,” Gordon said. “If the cards laid right, we were in that position because our fire-off speed was so fast. You got to race everybody as hard as you can, but with respect. … (Logano) didn’t try to side draft (Busch) to pull him back and all that stuff. They raced clean at that point.”
It’s at least the second time Busch has been upset with Logano this season, though the first time resulted in a physical altercation. On the last lap of the March race at Las Vegas, Logano got loose and made contact with Busch in Turn 4, causing Busch to spin down pit road.
Busch later approached Logano on pit road and attempted to punch him. Logano’s crew wrestled him to the ground and Busch wound up with cut on his forehead.
“That’s how Joey races, so he’s going to get it,” Busch said.
Maybe next year.