Busch Finishes 10th in DRIVE4COPD 300
Last-Lap Accident in Nationwide Series’ Season Opener Thwarts Busch’s Bid for Victory
Kurt Busch was leading Saturday’s DRIVE4COPD 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway with the checkered flag in his sights before a multi-car crash dashed his hopes for victory.
Busch had his No. 1 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Impala out front off turn four on the final lap of the season-opening Nationwide Series race. Just a few hundred yards separated him from his fourth career Nationwide Series win and his first at Daytona. But the gaggle of cars running three-wide as their drivers vied for the lead touched off a chain-reaction crash that collected Busch and left him a disappointing 10th when the smoke cleared.
“We were up front, leading laps and doing exactly what James Finch (team owner) would’ve wanted,” said Busch, who was one of 11 drivers caught up in the last-lap crash. “We took the white (flag) leading and had the lead halfway down the backstretch. Everybody was side drafting and we (Kurt and Kyle Busch) got separated. I went to crowd the outside lane and didn’t know that there were two cars up there. I thought it was just a single line. I was trying to side draft to get the best finish I could at the end. Everybody was racing to the end, but there are a lot of torn up cars. That’s everybody being full throttle there at the end.”
Busch started the race in 14th place and wasted no time positioning himself at the front of the field. He climbed to second on lap eight and moved into the lead on lap 28, two laps before the first caution flag waved for debris. After a quick pit stop for four tires and fuel, Busch returned to the track in the lead, which was a familiar spot for the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion as he wound up leading seven times for a race-high 42 laps.
Prior to the last-lap crash, the 120-lap race unfolded with little incident for Busch and the HendrickCars.com team. The only problem they battled was a slightly tight-handling racecar.
The relatively smooth day positioned Busch well for the race’s final shootout.
A caution on lap 115 setup a three-lap dash to the finish. When the race restarted on lap 118, Busch took the green flag with his brother Kyle tucked in close behind. The duo tried to stay hooked up as they came down the backstretch on the white-flag lap, but they lost contact in turns three and four. As Busch tried to side draft to prevent the outside lane from overtaking the lead, he and his brother were collected in the last-lap crash.
James Buescher won the DRIVE4COPD 300 to score his first career Nationwide Series victory. Brad Keselowski finished second, while Elliott Sadler, Cole Whitt and Austin Dillon rounded out the top five. Tayler Malsam, Timmy Hill, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Busch comprised the remainder of the top 10.
There were eight caution periods for 35 laps, with 18 drivers failing to finish the 120-lap race.
The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the March 3 Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The race starts at 4:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by ESPN2 beginning with its pre-race show at 4 p.m.