Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch survived the chaos to win the first Busch Clash on Daytona International Speedway’s famed road course after avoiding a crash involving the two leaders, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott.
Going to the final corner, Elliott was stalking Blaney and dive-bombed Blaney’s no. 12 Ford into the frontstretch chicane, but the two leaders came together coming out of the corner, clearing the way for Kyle Busch to overtake the pair of young guns with just a few-hundred feet left in the race.
“I didn’t know how it was going to play out or what was going to happen there, but I saw those guys go in there two-wide and I was like, I don’t know if they’re going to come out two-wide,” Busch said.
Busch, who won the Clash in 2012 on the Daytona oval, was able to capture Tuesday’s win with his new crew chief, Ben Beshore, who served as Harrison Burton’s crew chief in the Xfinity Series in 2020.
Elliott, who finished second following his run-in with Blaney, was apologetic to his fellow driver, but not for going for the win.
“I feel like you’ve got to go for it here in an event like this in any situation,” Elliott said. “I can’t be sorry about going for the win, but I certainly didn’t mean to wreck him. I drove in there and, just that corner gets so tight and I didn’t want to just completely jump the curb to the right.”
Blaney was frustrated after the race and expressed some displeasure following the accident.
“A race is a race. I don’t care if it’s an exhibition race or a normal points race,” Blaney said. “I was upset about it, for sure. Chase and I know each other well. I know he didn’t do it on purpose, but sending it off in there hard like anybody would do it’s just a shame we both got taken out or neither one of us won the race. If you’re gonna make a move like that make sure you either win the race, don’t let the third-place guy do it.”
The race had four cautions that lasted a for eight total laps and 13 lead changes between eight drivers. Denny Hamlin led a race-high 21 laps in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
At the finish, the results were:
- Kyle Busch
- Chase Elliott
- Joey Logano
- Tyler Reddick
- William Byron
- Denny Hamlin
- Alex Bowman
- Erik Jones
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
- Matt DiBenedetto
Prior to the drop of the green flag, reigning series champion Chase Elliott had to forfeit his seventh-place starting spot because his team made an unapproved adjustment. Once the green flag flew, Denny Hamlin took his no. 11 to the lead. Joey Logano, who started mid-pack, ran over a set of curb turtles in the opening laps and damaged the nose of his car. He also reported that the motor felt and sounded different after running over the curbs
On lap 3, Kevin Harvick spun out of turn 10 as a result of dirt getting kicked up onto the track by other cars. WIth some drivers falling farther behind the leaders, strategy began to play out as Logano and Kurt Busch made early pit stops on lap 6, taking four fresh tires so that they only had to fuel their cars under the competition caution.
The first caution flew on lap 9 after the track surface in turn 10 became covered with grass and dirt. Many drivers elected to pit for tires under the caution, including race leader Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, Jr. and others. Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Tyler Reddick and William Byron elected to stay out.
The race restarted on lap 11 and Blaney overshot turn 1, handing the lead to Tyler Reddick. Harvick lost control and spun off track for the second time. Keselowski took the lead from Reddick by the end of lap 11, but Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin and Truex put pressure on Keselowski’s no. 2 and overtook him on lap 13. The two teammates battled for the lead for another lap until Truex cleared Hamlin.
Just before the competition caution came out, multiple drivers pitted for new tires, including Alex Bowman, who received a pit-road speeding penalty. Elliott, Blaney, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones were also among the drivers who pitted just before the competition caution flew after the field completed the race’s 15th lap.
Under the caution, a frenzy ensued on pit road. Kurt Busch was first out of the pits while other drivers struggled like Tyler Reddick, who stalled his car coming off pit road.
When the race restarted, Martin Truex, Jr. had to start from the rear of the field because he had issued the frontstretch chicane just before the caution, and he did not come to a complete stop as NASCAR rules state a driver must do after missing a chicane on road courses. Kurt Busch led the field to the green flag, but overshot the first corner and fell to the rear of the field, handing the lead back to Denny Hamlin.
On lap 21, Cole Custer missed the frontstretch chicane in what appeared to be a mistake, but after being stopped on the track, NASCAR threw the caution as Custer’s no. 41 machine began to spit smoke and flames out from the exhaust and wheel wells.
William Byron made a pit stop under the caution, but coming out of the pits, his left-rear tire went flat, forcing him to pit a second time. Blaney, Elliott, Reddick, Bowman and other also pitted under during the caution.
Denny Hamlin restarted the race as the leader and Truex, who restarted fifth, jumped into second place. Ryan Blaney was the driver on the move though, as he drove from tenth to third in just under two laps. Like Blaney, Chase Elliott utilized his new tires to drive from the middle of the field to fifth.
With 8 laps to go, Truex mounted a charge against Hamlin for the lead and passed the no. 11, but spun in the dirt off of turn 10 later that lap and slapped the outside wall hard, bringing out another caution and ending his night early.
Fourteen teams elected to pit under the yellow flag while six cars stayed out, led by Elliott. The race restarted with five laps to go. Blaney had another great restart and was able to drive from seventh to second in just two laps.
Chris Buescher spun off the bumper of Tyler Reddick in turn 13 and collected Alex Bowman in the process while Keselowski spun on the backstretch.
With two laps remaining, Ryan Blaney took the lead from Elliott, but he couldn’t pull away. Elliott mounted a charge into the final corner and spun Blaney, taking the lead for just a second, but Kyle Busch drove through the smoke and accelerated past Elliott and Blaney to win his second Busch Clash with a last-lap pass.
The NASCAR Cup Series will be back in action at Daytona on the tri-oval course on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. to set the front row for Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Featured photo credit: Chris O’Meara/AP Photo