A Rowdy Quadfecta
Kyle Busch entered Friday night's NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway with wins in the ARCA Racing Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but had been unable to collect a win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. As the field took the white flag in the 2014 season-opening event, it appeared that Busch was going to have to settle for his fourth runner-up finish in the Truck Series at the 2.5-mile tri-oval, but the talented wheelman made a miraculous pass on the outside lane coming down the frontstretch and nudged fellow Toyota competitor Timothy Peters by .016-seconds at the stripe to pick up the victory. With the win, the Las Vegas native became the first driver to win in four different series at the "World Center of Racing."
Busch started from the seventh position and by lap five had advanced into the top five. He was able to gain one more position before the competition caution slowed the field on lap 20. After a two-tire and fuel stop, the No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra returned to the track scored in the third spot for the lap-24 restart. Tucked in the inside lane during the next green-flag run, Busch remained third until the second caution of the night occurred on lap 51.
Crew chief Eric Phillips once again summoned his driver down pit road for another set of right side tires and a full tank of fuel. Busch returned to the track scored in the second spot, but when leader Ben Kennedy failed to maintain minimum speed and had to surrender several spots per NASCAR rules, Busch grabbed the lead for the first time in the 100-lap event.
Busch and Timothy Peters would race side-by-side after the ensuing restart, exchanging the lead four times before Peters merged into the inside lane ahead of the No. 51 Tundra on lap 63, and would remain out front for the next 14 circuits. KBM's owner-driver tucked into the second position, where he remained until a 16-truck fracas slowed the field for the third time.
This time Phillips ordered up a fuel-only stop, putting his boss out front for the lap-87 restart. Busch remained on point until lap 85, when once again a Peters-led outside lane went charging by. Peters remained out front until the field came off Turn 4 for the final time, when "Rowdy" made a last ditch effort for the win and darted to the outside lane coming down the frontstretch.
Peters moved up the track to try and block the momentum of the No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra, but Busch would not be denied his first Truck Series victory at Daytona. The win was Busch's 36th career victory in NASCAR's third division and the eighth straight for a Tundra at the "World Center of Racing." The victory was the 28th of Phillips' Truck Series career, moving him into a tie with Rick Ren for most in series history by a crew chief.
"I didn't know that I had enough to get it done," Busch said. "Timothy (Peters) was really fast -- he could make that outside lane go. He got up to the lead there and then pulled down in front of me and the outside was still trying to get going with the 32 (Ryan Truex), but Timothy was so fast leading the top that he could get to the lead and then he was so fast leading the bottom that he could pretty much keep those guys at bay behind us. Coming out of (turn) four I just thought, 'Hey, I'm by myself and the 98 (Johnny Sauter) is far enough back and I think if my truck is faster than his truck then I think I can suck up on him a little bit, pull out and then see if I couldn't get alongside of him enough to pull him back with the side draft.' Kind of do like an old school sling shot. It didn't really look like one, it just kind of looked like a slow motion sling shot at real speed, but it happened and got alongside of him and drug him back -- and then him and the 98 had to get nose-to-tail and we already had the momentum."
Sauter came home third, to complete the all-Toyota podium, while Truex finished fourth and Ron Hornaday Jr. rounded out the top-five finishers.
Darrell Wallace Jr. had a strong run going before getting caught up in "the big one" on lap 74 and being relegated to a disappointing 26th-place finish.
The first race of the 2014 season featured four cautions for a total of 19 laps. There were eight lead changes among four drivers, including Busch who led four times for 25 laps.
17-year-old Erik Jones will make his 2014 debut behind the wheel of the ToyotaCare Tundra when the Truck Series resumes action at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on March 29. Jones, who became the youngest winner in series history last November at Phoenix (Ariz.) Raceway, finished inside the top 10 in all five of his starts for KBM in 2013. The No. 51 team, which won the final two races of the 2013 season, will be looking for its fourth consecutive victory. Live coverage of the Kroger 250 on Fox Sports 1 begins with the Truck Series Setup Show at 2:30 p.m. ET.