LOUDON, N.H. – Kurt Busch couldn’t see anything.
On the final lap of Sunday’s second stage, Austin Dillon banged doors with Kevin Harvick, sending the No. 4 twirling on the back stretch. Harvick spun so violently that his tires puffed out enough smoke to envelop the straightaway.
Busch was driving blind. When he slipped through the smoke, he saw the No. 4 in his crosshairs. Busch did not have enough time to slow down before spearing Harvick’s passenger-side door.
“Spotter said, ‘Spin off 2,’ ” Busch said. “When I came off 2, there was smoke. The spotter said, ‘Car low.’ A lot of times they come back up high. I was just trying to leave myself room high and low, slowing down as best I could on the old tires. Soon as I’m through the smoke, the 4 car is right there. That was the worst luck I’ve ever found in my whole life.”
After the collision, Harvick tried to pull away. But all he could do was spin his rear wheels. The force of the impact had stuck the cars of Busch and Harvick together.
The wreck ended the race for both of the playoff drivers. Busch was in worse shape than Harvick.
Busch’s 37th-place finish classified him as No. 15 of the 16 playoff drivers with one race remaining in the first round. Only the top 12 advance to the second round. Busch is 7 points behind No. 12 driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and most likely needs a win at Dover International Speedway to keep his championship pursuit alive. Harvick is 10th in the standings, 25 points north of Stenhouse.
Improvement wish list
If New Hampshire Motor Speedway general manager David McGrath gets his wish, the track will build a pedestrian tunnel for fans to access the infield from the grandstands. The track’s only tunnel, located under Turn 2, is used by haulers as well as foot traffic.
A second tunnel would address McGrath’s vision of mobility when it comes to live sports viewing. McGrath raises the example of Gillette Stadium, where fans can watch the New England Patriots from multiple viewpoints besides their seats.
“The real Holy Grail that we as a company, and certainly as a track, continue to figure out is how you create more energy in the grandstands for these fans,” McGrath said. “The thinking of getting in your seat and sitting there for three hours, I think, is old and dated. Our job is to create ways fans can experience NASCAR racing in ways they haven’t before — getting up, moving around, being able to see the action.”
No anthem protests
There were no visible protests by drivers or crew members on pit road during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Seven-time champion Richard Petty, owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, said he would not look kindly on one-knee protests like those seen across the NFL. “Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem ought to be out of the country. Period,” Petty told the Associated Press. “What got ’em where they’re at? The United States.”. . . Erik Jones (No. 6) was the fastest of the nonplayoff drivers. Clint Bowyer made it as high as second but dropped back to seventh by the checkered flag . . . A mechanical issue left Kasey Kahne 11 laps behind. Kahne is the No. 16 playoff driver, 21 points shy of the cutoff line.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.