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Fans witnessed a thrilling race this Sunday at Sonoma Raceway that saw Kyle Larson take the chequered flag for the third time this season. However, Richard Childress Racing continued to grapple with ongoing challenges. Ranging from its subpar pit crew performance to ECU issues that forced Supercars champion Will Brown out early in the race, the team’s struggles were affected by a last-lap entanglement involving Kyle Busch and Ross Chastain.

These issues raise critical questions about RCR’s consistency and its impact on its star driver, Kyle Busch, prompting NASCAR insider Jordan Bianchi to pose a serious issue.

Rowdy’s struggles this season

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Kyle Busch has faced many challenges this season with RCR. During the Coca-Cola 600 this year, Busch’s race was marred by a penalty for interfering with another team’s pit stop. This cost him valuable stage points and a potential top finish. “We’ve had some bad luck with pit road this year,” Busch had remarked earlier, emphasizing the impact of these penalties on his performance.

Despite an overhaul of Busch’s pit crew earlier in the season, the new team has also struggled. This reflects systemic issues within RCR’s operations. During the Phoenix race, Busch mentioned his unfamiliarity with the new crew, highlighting the adjustment period needed to gel as a team. Statistically, these pit road blunders have been costly. Busch lost 35 positions due to penalties in the Coca-Cola 600 alone.

In a notable encounter last week at Sonoma, Rowdy and Ross Chastain clashed on the last lap at Sonoma. This resulted in Busch’s #8 Chevrolet being spun out, dropping him from a top-10 finish to 12th place. Discussing this incident on ‘The Teardown’, Jordan Bianchi pointed out, “For Kyle Busch, this is just a continuation of what has been a very frustrating and way-gone season of just misery, right?

He continued, “Like you have to be in your race car again for the second week in a row and this time you again leave with a finish. Now this wasn’t necessarily your mistake like a week ago, but still, you leave in 12th place and you look at the standings. By my River Falls math, he’s eight points out of a playoff spot so he was going to finish top five. I mean that’s the difference between being in a playoff spot and not being in a playoff spot“.

Bianchi added, “They have thrown away a lot of points this year. And it’s not good. It more often than not ends up biting you in the b*tt when you’re in the playoff bubble. And these are going to be a very long ten weeks for this team”. The interplay of poor pit stops and on-track incidents has left Busch struggling to secure a consistent finish. His frustration was also evident in the post-race interviews.

The Chastain-Busch encounter and reactions

The recent encounter between Rowdy and Chastain at Sonoma was more like adding salt to Busch’s injury. Chastain was pushing aggressively throughout the race and as Bianchi points it out, “I mean, we kind of saw this from Ross throughout the day. There was a moment where he was racing Daniel Suarez, his teammate at the end of the stage, and he got aggressive a little bit, and Suarez came over to his radio and was like, ‘What was going on there?'”

His aggression hit its peak causing him to overdrive, resulting in contact with the #8 Chevy. As a result, he was relegated to 12th position while Chastain managed to finish in the top-five with a P5.

Ross made it clear in his post-match interview that it wasn’t personal. He said, “I finished fifth, but I’m not sure what happened with the 8 either. I’ll be honest, I’m pretty confused about most things here, but he checked up down into 4A. I popped out to not hit him and then I locked up getting in there to his right. So definitely not trying to run into him .” It looks like Busch’s bad luck is also playing its role this season.

Kyle Busch was quite livid on the other hand and was in no mood of forgiving. According to  NASCAR insider, Bob Pockrass, he said,  “A couple of guys there at the end of the race had better tires than we did, but we were going to have a good day. Unfortunately, one of those guys got into us on the last lap and ruined our day. It’s frustrating to not get the finish that we deserve.

To top things up, his wife didn’t look quite forgiving either. Samantha made her views clear on X. She said, “Locked up my tires” , clearly referring to the post-match interview of Ross Chastain.

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Rowdy currently stands 15th in the driver rankings with 380 points, 181 points behind the leader. With only five top-10 finishes and two top-5s this season, securing playoff points has become increasingly critical for the two-time Cup Series champion.