*Credit photo to Sporting News
Kyle Busch won his sixth race of the Sprint Cup season and picked up the second Cup restrictor plate win of his career, much to the dismay of the crowd on-hand at Daytona International Speedway for Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400. But, whether or not you like Kyle Busch is irrelevent – what you cannot deny is that the action at Daytona was exciting once again and should be considered another victory for the Car of Tomorrow.
Paul Menard led the field to green after winning the Coors Lite Pole Award during Friday’s qualifying session, and he held onto the position for the first 19 laps of the race, before finally surrendering it over to former DEI teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. The lead for Junior was short-lived, however, as AJ Allmendinger brought out the first caution of the evening on lap 20 after he cut down a right-side tire and smacked the wall, and it was Kyle Busch leading the field off of pit road. Earnhardt and Busch then swapped the lead back-and-forth a few more times and controlled the position between them until Jimmie Johnson finally took over on lap 75, and then Jeff Gordon moved to the front on lap 79.
Tony Stewart had been moving towards the front and easily had one of the best cars in the field, but some flu-like symptoms finally caught up with Smoke, and after a lap 71 caution involving Greg Biffle and Juan Pablo Montoya, Stewart called upon his former Joe Gibbs Racing ‘mate, JJ Yeley, who failed to qualify for the race and was standing by in the no. 20 pits as a relief driver. It took the team two pit stops, but they made the driver change and got Yeley out on the track at the tail end of the field. For Stewart, this was the second time he needed a mid-race substitute in his career, the last time coming at Dover in 2006 when the team used Ricky Rudd to relieve Stewart, who was recovering from a shoulder injury.
Matters then appeared to be getting worse for the Gibbs camp when Denny Hamlin got Kyle Busch loose on lap 82. Busch got so loose, in fact, that he was forced down onto the apron and sank all the way back to 37th place, near his new teammate, JJ Yeley. A caution on lap 110 helped Busch make up some ground, though, after Elliott Sadler hit the wall and bunched the field back up. Busch was amongst a handful of cars charging up to the front of the field, in a group that included Yeley, Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne who started in the back of the field, and Daytona 500 winner, Ryan Newman, who was recovering from an earlier spin with Jamie McMurray back on lap 44.
Under the caution, Carl Edwards stayed out on the track to collect 5 bonus points for leading a lap, and then it was Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin swapping the lead back and forth for several laps. Busch had worked his way back into the top-ten by lap 110, and it’s a good thing for him, because the final 40 laps of the race brought out seven more cautions.
The fifth caution of the evening came with just 37 to go when David Gilliland got loose and hit the wall, bringing Ryan Newman with him and setting off a chain reaction behind them which also resulted with Jeff Burton in the wall. Gilliland had been running inside the top-five for most of the race until a pit road misque during the previous caution shuffled him back to 14th and in what would become the danger zone.
The mele’ continued just 7 laps later when Jamie McMurray couldn’t clear the no. 83 car of Brian Vickers and got spun out as a result, and then five laps after that, Ryan Newman was involved in his third accident of the day, this time spinning along with Denny Hamlin. Then, on lap 139, JJ Yeley – who had been making steady progress working his way up inside the top-15 and flirting with the top-ten – got turned sideways by David Ragan, and Jeff Burton and Casey Mears ended up in the wall behind them.
The 9th caution of the race came on lap 149 when Boris Said was spun by Joe Nemechek, and with the field bunched up together, Kyle Busch re-assumed the lead when he passed Jeff Gordon on lap 155. Another caution came out a lap later with a big spill involving Dave Blaney, Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard, Regan Smith, JJ Yeley, David Reutimann, and Denny Hamlin, amongst others.
The field lined up for the sixth green-white-checkered finish of the season. Kyle Busch was out front, followed by Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards. A slow restart caused Edwards to get into the back of the no. 24, turning Gordon around onto the apron, but NASCAR chose not to waive the caution flag. Then, Edwards and Matt Kenseth ducked out of line and pulled up next to the race leader, but Kenseth’s car “couldn’t hold it down” on the high line.
In an unlikely turn of events, the race turned into Carl Edwards running side-by-side with Kyle Busch, but Carl’s teammate – Matt Kenseth – was pushing Kyle, and Kyle’s brother – Kurt Busch – was pushing the no. 99. As the two cars took turns pulling their nose ahead of the other, the cars started piling up behind them, and NASCAR finally brought out the caution. Officials then turned to video replay to decide who was in front when the caution flag actually came out, and it was determined that Kyle did in fact pull ahead of Edwards right at the last moment, naming him the winner.
Edwards went onto finish 2nd – his best Daytona finish – with his Roush teammate, Matt Kenseth in third, and Kurt Busch in 4th, despite starting all the way back in the 36th position. David Ragan recovered nicely from a pit road penalty that put him at the end of the field on lap 113, and he went onto finish 5th. Robby Gordon had a very solid race and even led a lap at one point, and he finished 6th. Kasey Kahne appeared to be headed for disaster when he was forced to pit with less than 10 to go due to a right fender rub, but he rebounded into the 7th position. After leading the most laps in the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car faded in the latter stages, as he settled for 8th. 9th place went to Clint Bowyer, who had a very quiet day as he worked his way up from 25th. And, Mark Martin rounded out the top-ten finishers after starting from the outside pole. There was also a point in the race where Mark got the opportunity to run up front with his three Hendrick teammates for next season.
Other Notables: Kevin Harvick finished the race in 12th, but it wasn’t enough to keep him in the top-12 in points, as he now sits 13th in the standings ….. Polesitter, Paul Menard, finished 15th ….. Driving in relief of Tony Stewart, JJ Yeley finished 20th, which was just enough to keep Stewart two points in front of Harvick ….. Jimmie Johnson finished 23rd ….. After appearing as though he might be in line for the victory on the final restart, Jeff Gordon plummeted to a 30th place finish ….. Last year’s race winner, Jamie McMurray, finished 32nd ….. Daytona 500 winner, Ryan Newman, finished 36th ….. Jeff Burton wound up 37th, ending his 23-race streak of top-15 finishes.
the Racing - 95%
the Drama – 96%
Coverage – 92%
Pre-Race – 89%
Overall Grade: 94%
- Kyle Busch Captures Win in Exciting Finish at Daytona International Speedway – (Racing for the Win)
- Live on Type Delay: Firecracker (Coke Zero) 400 – (RevJim’s Rans ‘n’ Raves)
Complete Results (from nascar.com):
|1||9||18||Kyle Busch||Toyota||Interstate Batteries||190/5||162||Running|
|3||19||17||Matt Kenseth||Ford||R+L Carriers||165/0||162||Running|
|4||36||2||Kurt Busch||Dodge||Miller Lite||160/0||162||Running|
|6||37||7||Robby Gordon||Dodge||Robby Gordon Motorsports||155/5||162||Running|
|8||3||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||Nat’l Guard Defending Freedom (ACU) / AMP Energy||152/10||162||Running|
|9||25||07||Clint Bowyer||Chevrolet||Jack Daniel’s||138/0||162||Running|
|10||2||8||Mark Martin||Chevrolet||U.S. Army||134/0||162||Running|
|11||28||83||Brian Vickers||Toyota||Red Bull||130/0||162||Running|
|13||20||43||Bobby Labonte||Dodge||Pillsbury Cinnabon / Cheerios||124/0||162||Running|
|14||10||10||Patrick Carpentier *||Dodge||Auto Value / Bumper to Bumper||121/0||162||Running|
|15||1||15||Paul Menard||Chevrolet||Vertis / Menards||123/5||162||Running|
|16||43||45||Terry Labonte||Dodge||Richard Petty Driving Experience||115/0||162||Running|
|17||35||1||Martin Truex Jr.||Chevrolet||Bass Pro Shops / Swing Vote||112/0||162||Running|
|18||4||78||Joe Nemechek||Chevrolet||Furniture Row Racing||109/0||162||Running|
|20||17||20||Tony Stewart||Toyota||The Home Depot||103/0||162||Running|
|22||39||41||Reed Sorenson||Dodge||Polaroid / TUMS||97/0||162||Running|
|24||8||01||Regan Smith *||Chevrolet||DEI / Principal Financial Group||91/0||162||Running|
|25||21||00||Michael McDowell *||Toyota||Champion Mortgage||88/0||162||Running|
|26||15||11||Denny Hamlin||Toyota||FedEx Office||90/5||162||Running|
|27||29||55||Michael Waltrip||Toyota||NAPA AUTO PARTS||87/5||162||Running|
|28||5||70||Johnny Sauter||Chevrolet||Haas Automation||79/0||162||Running|
|29||42||77||Sam Hornish Jr. *||Dodge||Penske Truck Rental||76/0||162||Running|
|31||11||28||Travis Kvapil||Ford||Ford. Drive one.||70/0||161||Running|
|32||40||26||Jamie McMurray||Ford||IRWIN Marathon with WeldTec||67/0||157||Running|
|33||22||21||Jon Wood||Ford||U.S. Air Force||64/0||155||Running|
|34||16||5||Casey Mears||Chevrolet||CARQUEST / Kellogg’s||61/0||152||Running|
|35||7||160||Boris Said||Ford||No Fear / Advance Auto Parts||63/5||149||In Pit|
|36||32||12||Ryan Newman||Dodge||Samsung HDTV / Alltel||55/0||149||Running|
|37||23||31||Jeff Burton||Chevrolet||AT&T Mobility||52/0||140||In Pit|
|38||31||42||Juan Montoya||Dodge||Juicy Fruit Slim Pack||49/0||132||Running|
|39||38||19||Elliott Sadler||Dodge||Best Buy / Garmin||46/0||129||Running|
|41||18||109||Sterling Marlin||Chevrolet||Miccosukee Resort & Gaming||40/0||103||In Pit|
|42||13||84||A.J. Allmendinger||Toyota||Red Bull||37/0||100||Running|
|43||33||16||Greg Biffle||Ford||3M||34/0||69||In Pit|
Sprint Cup Series Standings (from nascar.com):
|RANK||+/-||DRIVER||POINTS||BEHIND||STARTS||POLES||WINS||TOP 5||TOP 10|
|2||+1||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2504||-182||18||1||1||7||12|
|14||–||Martin Truex Jr.||2057||-629||18||0||0||2||5|
|33||–||Sam Hornish Jr.*||1370||-1316||18||0||0||0||0|