Busch Overcomes Two Accidents to Finish Eighth in Daytona 500 M&M's Team Contends for the Win Late in Season-Opening Race
Kyle Busch rallied back from two accidents to finish a respectable eighth in Sunday's 53rd Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
Despite being involved in a pair of incidents, Busch was in the top-10 and had a chance to put his No. 18 M&M's Toyota in victory lane in NASCAR's biggest race with just four laps remaining of the originally scheduled 200-lap distance.
That all changed on lap 198 when Busch's car was collected in a multi-car accident at the end of the backstretch.
After leaving the accident scene with minimal damage, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers opted to keep the M&M's Toyota on the track -- rather than pit -- to stay in the top-five and preserve a chance at victory.
With the race still under caution and near the scheduled 200-lap mark, NASCAR officials called for a green-white-checkered finish. As many as three attempts to finish the race under green would be made, but only if a caution came out before the leader took the white flag for the final lap.
During the caution period prior to the first attempt on lap 203, Busch and his older brother Kurt, who drives for Penske Racing, plotted over the radio to work together through the final laps in hopes that one would come home victorious. The Busch brothers took the green flag and made a charge toward the front, but before the white flag could be displayed, another multi-car accident took place on the backstretch and forced a second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.
Before Kyle Busch could again begin plotting strategy with his brother, he felt his right-front tire going soft due to the minor damage from the lap 198 accident. Knowing he couldn't make it to the end of the race, Busch drove his M&M's Toyota to pit road on lap 206 to get four fresh tires and have the crew make sure none of the body work was rubbed on the tires.
Despite the setback, Busch didn't give up, he just moved up the scoreboard. After restarting 16th on lap 207, Busch gained an impressive eight positions throughout the final two laps to bring home a solid top-10 finish.
"Pretty crazy day, overall," said Busch, who now has two top-10 finishes in seven Daytona 500 starts. "We were able to come out of this with a pretty good finish for our M&M's Toyota. It felt good that we had a really fast race car. We just needed to get some help there, and we got a lot of help with teammates and then trying to find some other guys that would help us -- and there weren't many of them. We kind of did it on the end on the 78 (Regan Smith) car, just pushing him. To come home with an eighth-place finish -- that's not bad."
After starting 10th in the 43-car field, Busch experienced trouble early -- as on the fourth lap -- when the Toyota of Michael Waltrip pushed the rear bumper of Busch's Toyota just a bit too much, causing the No. 18 car to spin around in turn two. Fortunately for Busch, his car did not make contact with the wall and suffered minimal damage. The M&M's crew spent the next couple of pits stops under caution strengthening the left-rear quarterpanel so the rear end of the car could handle the pushing from other cars that would be required for the rest of the event.
With new asphalt at Daytona for the first time since 1979 and a new front bumper on the Sprint Cup Series cars which replaces the splitter, the style of racing around the 2.5-mile oval has been altered. In past years, large groups of cars were bunched together inches apart, while the new style of racing features cars pairing up with each other almost as if the rear of the lead car is connected to the front bumper of the car following.
Following the lap four accident, Busch decided to race near the rear of the field with teammate Denny Hamlin and out of the way of several multi-car accidents throughout the race. When Hamlin faded on lap 117, Busch hooked up with his other teammate Joey Logano, who pushed Busch to the lead for the first time on lap 121. Busch and Logano paired up until lap 160, when Logano suffered damage in a pit road incident that forced him back in the running order.
From there, Busch had to look for yet another drafting partner and he found it in Richard Childress Racing driver Clint Bowyer. Busch and Bowyer stayed hooked up for much of the rest of the race, until the multi-car accident which ultimately caused Busch's tire to deflate.
"I would have liked to have got with my brother at the end and help push him," said Busch. "But unfortunately we had a tire rub and came down to fix it to make sure we didn't have bigger problems than we already had. I've got to thank all the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing, M&M's and Toyota for all of their support. Wished we could have won, but it wasn't a bad way to start the season."
Busch's JGR teammates -- Hamlin and Logano -- finished 21st and 23rd, respectively.
Trevor Bayne, driving for the legendary Wood Brothers in just his second career Sprint Cup Series start, beat Carl Edwards by .118 of a second to win the 53rd Daytona 500 and score the first victory of his Sprint Cup career. Bayne, at 20-years old, is the youngest winner in the history of the Daytona 500.
It was the Wood Brothers' fifth Daytona 500 victory but first since 1976 with David Pearson driving.
Finishing third was David Gilliland, while Bobby Labonte and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five. Juan Pablo Montoya, Smith, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Mark Martin comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 16 caution periods for 60 laps, with 13 drivers failing to finish the 208-lap race, which was extended eight laps past its scheduled distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.
Since Bayne has declared the NASCAR Nationwide Series as the division in which he will compete for a driver's championship, he was awarded no driver points for his victory, and Edwards is the Sprint Cup Series championship leader with 42 points.
Busch leads the JGR trio in the championship point standings. He is seventh with 37 points and is five markers behind Edwards. Hamlin is tied for 19th with Ryan Newman with 24 points, 18 back of Edwards. Logano is tied for 21st with Dale Earnhardt Jr., with 21 points, 21 markers behind Edwards.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Feb. 27 Subway Fresh Fit 500k at Phoenix International Raceway.