The opening race of the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup playoffs has impacted at least two of the eight drivers vying to run for the championship at Miami next month.
Chase Elliott suffered mechanical issues early in the race that forced his team to take his No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro to the garage for repairs. Elliott returned to the track, eventually falling more than 50 laps behind the leader and finished 36th out of the 38 drivers in the field.
Busch and his Toyota Camry were turned around coming out of Turn 4 after contact with Almirola’s Ford Mustang and suffered damage to his left front that caused Busch to pit twice for repairs and in hopes he could remain on the lead lap while under the yellow caution flag.
Larson suffered minor damage but was able to continue on. Neither Preece nor Johnson could stop in time and got into Almirola, causing extensive damage to the No. 10.
Johnson finished last, while Almirola was one spot higher in 37th.
“He chopped me getting into three,” Almirola said of Busch to NBCSN. “I tried to squeeze in front of him in the spring (race) on one of the restarts and he about wrecked me in turn 3. It was returned to him and he didn’t like it and he ran me up over the curb and we got hooked together and ruined our day.”
Almirola gave a veiled warning to Busch in the remainder of the playoffs.
“I’m frustrated,” Almirola said. “We have 3 more weeks and I’m going to make it hell for him.”
Elliott is now in a very difficult position with two races remaining to make it to Miami.