Busch Wins Shootout In A Shootout
M&M’s Driver Passes Three-Time and Reigning Champion Stewart On Final Lap
In her first race, Ms. Brown found Victory Lane.
Ms. Brown, the newest edition to the M&M’s family of characters, was a “passenger” on board Kyle Busch’s No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) that won Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
Busch passed three-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart just before the finish line on the final lap to claim his first career victory in the non-points event. Busch won by .013 of a second, the closest finish in Budweiser Shootout history.
“It’s great that we were able to come out first race back in the M&M’s car and get back in Victory Lane,” Busch said. “It means a lot to myself and this team, Joe Gibbs Racing. I can’t say enough about all the support around, M&M’s being back and us being able to get to Victory Lane like we did.”
It was incredible that Busch was even in position to win, as he made two phenomenal displays of driving skill to avoid crashing twice earlier in the race. While Busch was in second place on Lap 47, five-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson bumped the rear of Busch’s M&M’s Toyota in Turn 2 and caused him to nearly spin out of control. But Busch wrestled back control of his car and continued while the track remained under a green-flag condition.
But Busch’s most impressive save came on Lap 74 when he was again in second place and tapped from behind in Turn 4 by four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon. Busch’s car turned hard to the left, and as his M&M’s Toyota slid off the banking and onto the apron in a shower of sparks. The car straightened, and then headed left again while spraying sparks as Busch tried to regain control. After a third trip violently to the left and a third shower of sparks, Busch finally tamed the car and was able to stay in the race.
“The first time might have been luck; I’m going to say the second time was all skill,” Busch said jokingly. “It was interesting from my seat. I was steering, stabbing, braking, gassing, everything in between, trying to keep the thing straight, get it back under control.”
After two trips to pit lane for repairs during the ensuing caution period, Busch restarted in ninth place as the field returned to racing for a green-white-checkered finish. He quickly moved to the front of the field in tandem with Stewart and on the final lap found himself directly behind leader Stewart as they entered Turn 4. As they exited that turn, Busch pulled to the high side and inched ahead of Stewart just before the finish line to win.
“This win certainly ranks up there,” Busch said. “Being knocked around and beat around, almost spun out a couple times, being able to prevail through all that and still come through. Obviously, there were 10 cars left at the end of the race; we didn’t have much to pass. It’s not like the 500 where there still might be 22 of them or something.
“It was certainly cool because I was trying to push (Ryan) Newman and hook up with him. Then he was hooked up with whoever was in front of him. I’m like, ‘All right, fine.’ The hole opened up behind Stewart. I ducked in behind there knowing he had a fast car and pushed him. We got up through there. He made the way to the outside and everything. Coming to the line, I’ve been in that situation reverse before with Tony, and it hasn’t ended up so well. This time it turned out all right. We made it past him and beat him to the line, so it was cool.”
Busch’s JGR teammates, Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Toyota Camry and Joey Logano in the No. 20 Toyota Camry, finished fifth and 18th, respectively. Hamlin scored his fourth top-10 finish in seven Budweiser Shootouts, while Logano was involved in a multi-car accident on Lap 54 and was unable to finish the race.
This year’s field included 25 drivers.
Marcos Ambrose finished third, while Brad Keselowski and Hamlin rounded out the top five. Greg Biffle, Newman, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya comprised the remainder of the top 10.
There were five cautions for 22 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish the 82-lap race, which was extended seven laps past its scheduled distance due to a multi-car accident on Lap 74 creating a green-white-checkered finish.