Photo credit: Nigel Kinrade Photography

Iowa Cup race another missed opportunity for Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch failed to finish Sunday night's inaugural Cup Series race at Iowa Speedway due to multiple mechanical issues. This was only the latest obstacle placed in his path this season, but it significantly hurt his playoff chances.

Busch entered Sunday's race only eight points below the playoff cutline and Bubba Wallace, who held the final playoff spot. Now, he is 31 points below the cutline.

The No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet had speed early at Iowa, which Busch used to score one stage point.

The situation drastically changed on Lap 269. He hit the wall and headed to pit road. Busch returned to the track but headed to the garage on Lap 273 with a mechanical issue.

The No. 8 team made repairs and sent the car back out of the garage area, but this was a temporary return. Another issue sent Busch back to the garage and ultimately ended his night.

"Yeah, I don't know what happened, but Next Gen parts and pieces broke," Busch told NBC Sports. "Something in the left-rear suspension -- I don't know if it was a toe link or what it was, but it changed the skew of the back of the car and it was just undrivable doing that. We came in and fixed it.

"Rolling back out, we broke the belt. I have no idea, but frustrating, for sure. Not what we wanted for all of our No. 8 zone Chevy guys; everybody from Kwik Star. We were having a pretty decent day. I thought we had a top-10 run going. We had an opportunity there to score some points, but it wasn't meant to be."

The 35th-place finish, which secured a mere three points, marked the third consecutive race where Busch's finish did not reflect the speed in his car.

Last weekend at Sonoma Raceway, Busch had top-five speed in the No. 8 Chevrolet. He was running fifth on the final lap of the road course race when contact from Ross Chastain sent him spinning. Busch finished 12th but lost out on seven points.

Busch also had top-10 speed at World Wide Technology Raceway on June 2. However, he crashed at the end of stage 2 while battling Kyle Larson for seventh place. Instead of scoring three or four stage points in that segment alone, Busch finished 35th with two total points.

Kyle Busch finished 35th at Gateway after a crash in stage 2.

It looked like (Larson) got loose down the front straightaway into Turn 1," Busch said at Gateway after exiting the infield care center. "He was on older tires and trying to get us for a spot. I'm not sure what that single point would mean for him, but it certainly hurt us a lot.

"It took that point away, as well as the others that we would get for the stage and then also the rest of the day. It's very frustrating. We can't afford days like that. The No. 8 Rebel Bourbon Camaro wasn't what it was last year, but it was a top-10 car and we were going to finish there. Now we're not going to finish at all."

This season has been an outlier in Busch's career. The two-time Cup champion only has five top-10 finishes and two top-fives in the first 17 races of the season. His average finish of 17.9 is his worst since his rookie season in 2005 (21.0).

There is a possibility that he could go winless for the first time in his Cup career. If this happens, Busch's record-setting run of winning at least one race each season would end after 19 seasons.

The inexplicable thing about these results is that not all of the poor finishes are due to the same problem. Sometimes, the No. 8 team brings a car to the track that doesn't have the speed or handling.

Other times, there is speed but something unexpected happens. Sunday's race was just another example.