Two Accidents End Busch's Chances for Victory in Season-Opening NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Daytona; Interstate Batteries Driver Leads Three Times for 10 laps, but Finishes 18th Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota...
Two Accidents End Busch's Chances for Victory in Season-Opening NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Daytona; Interstate Batteries Driver Leads Three Times for 10 laps, but Finishes 18th
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), was caught up in two accidents that ended his chances of victory in Saturday's DRIVE4COPD 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
With qualifying cancelled due to rain, the 43-car field was set by the final 2009 Nationwide Series owner points, and Busch was awarded the first starting spot due to his 2009 Nationwide Series championship.
Busch led three times for 10 laps -- including the first five laps of the season-opening race -- and took over the lead again during laps 43-46 and again on lap 79 despite telling crew chief Jason Ratcliff that his Interstate Batteries machine needed more grip around the 2.5-mile oval.
After three scheduled pit stops, it appeared as though Ratcliff had the car to Busch's liking.
Unfortunately, with just 29 laps to go in the 120-lap race, Busch was caught up in a multi-car accident on the backstretch triggered when Brad Keselowski made contact with the car of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt's car began a slow barrel-roll on the high-side of the brackstretch, and once Earnhardt's car was upright, Busch, with nowhere to go, made contact with Earnhardt's car with the right front of his Interstate Batteries Toyota.
After a brief red-flag period and three pit stops to repair the damage, Busch returned to the track one lap down and appeared out of contention for a victory.
However, another caution flew just three laps later and Busch, because he was the first car one lap down, received the "Lucky Dog", meaning he was able to rejoin the lead-laps cars.
After restarting outside of the top-20, Busch began charging toward the front and amazingly was able to crack the top-five with less than 10 laps remaining.
On the final lap, while out of the contention for a victory, Busch still had a shot for a top-five finish -- an incredible accomplishment given what had transpired on the backstretch just 28 laps prior.
Unfortunately, Busch and Keselowski made contact in between turns three and four, causing both cars to spin, but not make contact with the wall. Nonetheless, Busch fell to a disappointing 18th-place finish.
"At one point I thought our chances to win were over," said Busch. "We had a lot of right-front damage from the wreck in front of us. The Interstate Batteries guys worked really hard to get the car in good enough shape just to get back out there and run. We ended up getting our lap back and couldn't believe we were in the lead draft at the end and had a shot at a top-five. Just a frustrating day since a lot happened today that was out of our control."
Tony Stewart won the DRIVE4COPD 300 by .309 of a second over Carl Edwards. It was his ninth career Nationwide Series victory, his first of the season and his fifth at Daytona. Stewart has been victorious in all but one of the February Nationwide races at Daytona since 2005.
Kevin Harvick, Justin Allgaier and Brian Vickers took spots three through five. The rest of the top-10 consisted of Paul Menard, Busch's JGR teammate Joey Logano, rookie James Buescher, Kasey Kahne and Steve Wallace.
The race featured seven caution periods for 32 laps, with 17 drivers failing to finish.
While Busch is not running the full Nationwide Series schedule, the No. 18 Toyota is competing for the owner's title, and it is 18th in points after round 1 of 35.
The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the Feb. 20 Stater Bros. 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.