Kurt Busch Pulls Off Last-Lap Pass To Win His First Daytona 500

by February 26, 2017 0 comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kurt Busch claimed his first Daytona 500 victory after a wild 200 laps at Daytona International Speedway in Sunday afternoon.

Busch led just once in his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford, and it was the last lap. His one lap led in Sunday’s race marks the lowest number of laps led by a winner in the 500-mile race. On the last lap, Busch was able to get around leader, Kyle Larson on the high side as the field exited Turn 2 for the final time. Busch separated his self from the pack and held on for the victory in his 16th start in the prestigious race.

“We had a lot of switch‑over at SHR this off‑season building all these Fords,” Busch said. “Extra trips to the wind tunnel, extra massaging on this, changing that.

“When you have a crew chief that grows up in the shadows of the grandstands here in Daytona, you know you have the best guy because his heart is in it. That’s what Daytona is about. You have to give it your heart.”

Ryan Blaney, driver of the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, finished in second after dashing through the field on multiple occasions and leading two laps. He was able to make a run on the white flag lap to capture his highest finish in four races at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

“Yeah, I thought we had a good car all day to start off,” Blaney said. “We showed that definitely in the first half of the race. Then we got some damage there in one of those big wrecks about middle of the race. Kind of hurt our car a little bit.”

Blaney continued and said, “We all got single file with 15 to go, something like that. I tried to make a move with 10 to go to see what would happen. No one really went with me. The 22 (Joey Logano) tried to. It really wasn’t happening. I was kind of worried it was just going to end that way.

“Luckily I got Joey behind me there down the frontstretch, and we were able to lay back to him and get a huge run into one. At that same moment, the 41 went to go past the 42, and it kept my run going, all the way up to second.”

AJ Allmendinger was able to hold on through the mayhem of the final laps to finish in the third position in the JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Kroger Click List Chevrolet. The top-three was Allmendinger’s third top-10 finish in 16 races at Daytona International Speedway.

“Just solid,” Allmendinger said. “We didn’t have the best speed outright since we’ve been here. We put a great effort. The Duels we got a good finish. Unfortunately had the penalty. To come out with a top‑five finish, I think this is the first time since I’ve been with the 47 team we’ve raced our primary car at the 500. That’s a start.”

Aric Almirola, Paul Menard, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip, Matt DiBenedetto and Trevor Bayne completed the top-10 on the leaderboard on Sunday.

“I had a really, really good handling car,” said Waltrip, who captured a solid eight place finish in his final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. “I’m thankful that I survived and I’m thankful for being able to run upfront and I’m happy about the finish. I’m ready for it to be my last one so it’s going to be a good one to remember it by.”

Sunday’s 59th running of the Daytona 500 marked the first race for NASCAR’s new Stage race procedures. The 200-lap race had three stages. Stages 1 and 2 were 60 laps each. Stage 3 was an 80-lap dash for the race win.

Winners of Stages 1 and 2 received a Playoff point that they will be able to use if they reach the playoffs at the end of the regular season. The top-10 were also awarded championship points. The winner of the stage was awarded 10 points, with one point going to the driver in 10th.

Kyle Busch won Stage 1, and the Stage 2 victory went to Kevin Harvick.

Allowing drivers the chance to win points during the race paid off for many who never got to see the checkered flag. Only 15 cars finished Sunday’s race on the lead lap, and only 25 cars were running at the finish.

The notorious “Big One” at Daytona struck multiple times, taking out some of the biggest names and strongest cars in the field.

On lap 106, a rear tire on Kyle Busch’s No. 18 car went down, sending him spinning in Turn 3. He collected drivers including, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Ty Dillon and Elliott Sadler. Busch, Jones, Kenseth and Earnhardt, Jr. were unable to continue the event and were forced to retire to the garage due to significant damage to their cars. The wreck brought out a 17-minute red flag.

“Just spun around and you know it actually felt like I hung onto it for a long ways and then finally it went,” Busch said. “I don’t know if it was a left rear that went down or the right that went down but man, tore up three JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars in one hit and also Jr. (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). So I feel bad, horrible, for those guys, but man, nothing that we did wrong.”

The chaos continued on lap 129, when Jimmie Johnson and Trevor Bayne made contact at the front of the field, triggering a 17-car pile-up in Turn 3. Multiple drivers were unable to continue, including Johnson, Danica Patrick, Clint Bowyer and Chris Buescher.

“They started running into the back of me off of Turn 2 and didn’t stop until I crashed and took out the field,” Johnson said. “I don’t’ know what was going on with the pack behind me, but the whole back straightaway I had, I think the No. 6 (Trevor Bayne) into the back of me. I was just praying that they would let me go and let me get my rear tires back on the ground and it never happened. Just a lot of aggression, way too early in my opinion.”

Just a few laps after returning to green-flag conditions, drivers misjudged Blaney waving to hit pit road, which caused an accident on lap 137, involving Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Trevor Bayne, Elliott Sadler and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

The final “Big One” occurred on lap 143 when Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray made contact at the front of the field, causing a chain reaction through the pack.

Throughout the afternoon, there were eight cautions for 40 laps. The 59th running of the Daytona 500 saw 37 leads changes among 18 drivers. Kevin Harvick led on six occasions for a race high of 50 laps.

Up next on the schedule for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 5. The race will broadcast live on FOX and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

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