Busch Finishes 17th in Shootout
Late-Race Accident Foils Storybook Ending for No. 51 TAG Heuer Team
Kurt Busch was in fourth place with a chance to race for the win in Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway when one of the event’s “big ones” took the No. 51 TAG Heuer Chevrolet Impala Team out of contention and relegated it to a 17th-place finish.
“It was a great race for our TAG Heuer Chevrolet,” Busch said. “It was great for (TAG Heuer) to step on board, and hopefully they got the exposure level they wanted to see tonight, but it was a lot of fun. We were in position coming to take the white, and a couple of guys got sideways in front of us. You could just feel the emotion with 10 to go that we were in the position to do great things even though we are a small team. All of the hard work from the crew guys, this was our fourth-string-type car. We could feel all of the hard work we put into it. With 10 to go, running in the top five, you get emotional because you know how much hard work went into it. It is tough to wreck, but it was awesome.”
It was an attrition-filled weekend for Busch as the team was caught in a practice accident Friday evening and forced to a backup car. NASCAR rules required Busch to start at the rear of the Shootout field due to the use of the backup car. The setback didn’t prove detrimental as Busch quickly flexed the power of the No. 51 Chevrolet, racing to 10th place within the first five laps. Busch maneuvered his way around the first big incident of the night, which unfolded on Lap 8. Busch and a handful of other drivers made a pit stop for four tires and fuel during the caution. Racing resumed at Lap 15 with the No. 51 Chevrolet in ninth place.
Busch was in seventh place when the caution waved on Lap 25 to begin a 10-minute scheduled break in competition. But there was no rest for the team, which changed four tires, adjusted tire air pressure, added fuel and more before green-flag racing resumed on Lap 26 with Busch in seventh.
In what has become customary racing at superspeedways, the field bunched in tight packs for much of the event. The dicey game of bumper cars led to major accidents involving multiple cars. Busch narrowly missed one of these wrecks on Lap 54, when Marcos Ambrose nudged the left rear of Joey Logano. The ensuing melee collected six cars. Busch escaped the incident but had to pit for fresh tires after driving through the debris littering the track.
Racing resumed on Lap 61 with Busch riding in seventh place. The high-speed chess match continued to unfold as the laps wound down. Busch had positioned the No. 51 Chevrolet solidly in the top five as the field raced to the final five laps. The action reached a fever pitch at Lap 73 as the field exited Turns 3 and 4 with Busch in fourth place and looking to make a move on the final two laps of the race. But Jeff Gordon hit the rear of Kyle Busch, sending him spinning and triggering a spectacular crash that collected Kurt Busch’s No. 51 Chevrolet and others. The damage to the No. 51 Chevrolet was beyond repair, and Busch was forced to retire from the event in 17th place.
Busch’s spot was secured due to his 2011 win in the Budweiser Shootout. This year’s field included 25 drivers.
Kyle Busch earned his first Budweiser Shootout victory, edging reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart by .013 of a second in the closest finish in Shootout history. Marcos Ambrose, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five. Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya comprised the remainder of the top 10.