Kurt Busch’s 2004 championship nearly marred by wheel mishap at Homestead

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If there is one iconic image of the first “Chase” championship race, it’s not of a car nor a driver.

It’s a wheel.

At the first playoff era championship race in 2004 — which at the time culminated a 10-race playoff where points weren’t reset after the initial one to start the postseason — Kurt Busch felt a vibration on Lap 93. When headed to the Homestead-Miami Speedway pit road, the wheel came off the car. 

In the latest edition of our “You Kids Don’t Know” series, we take a look back at the first “Chase” playoffs in 2004

In the latest edition of our "You Kids Don’t Know" series, we take a look back at the first "Chase" playoffs in 2004

Busch, as one might predict, had no positive thoughts when he could at first feel and then see one of his wheels break. The Roush Racing (now Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing) driver thought his championship hopes had just rolled away along with the wheel.

“I thought we’re done,” Busch said. “I close my eyes, my nose was tingling. When you’re about to wreck in any kind of car, for me, the whole body shuts down and it’s like everything is in slow-mo.”

And then Busch said what happened is a little bit hard to explain. He reacted, and it turned out his reaction was perfect.                                                                           

“Something helped pull my left foot off the brake pedal, kind of like driving in snowy conditions,” Busch said. “If you hit the brake too hard, the car is going to go straight. And I got off the brake pedal. I missed the end of pit lane.

“And then the wheel goes on to the track to create the yellow, so we actually stayed on the lead lap with all that going on.”

Busch was able to keep control of his car all the way down pit road to his pit stall. He also said he was concerned that NASCAR could penalize him for an uncontrolled tire because the wheel eventually returned to pit road after rolling the length of the frontstretch beside the wall that separated the track and the pits.

He remained in contention, and ultimately won the Cup Series championship.

“The iconic moment with Kurt is definitely the tire flying off missing the end of pit road wall and being able to come back and compete first and not crash and have all the things that could have happened in that particular moment,” said former Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

 Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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