Kurt Busch, racing through a difficult valley in his career, found his way back to the top Friday night, scoring a tight victory in the wild Subway Jalapeno 250 Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Busch, with drafting help from Ricky Stenhouse Jr., took control of the lead in the closing two-lap dash to the finish. The Busch-Stenhouse tandem draft was challenged by the second draft of Austin Dillon and Michael Annett.
In the shadow of the checkered flag, as he pressed Stenhouse, Dillon lost control of his car and slid across the finish line sideways, finishing third to Busch, Stenhouse and Annett.
A late-race caution for debris gave the race a green-white-checkered finish.
Dillon held the lead with three laps to go when NASCAR put the race under yellow because of debris.
The race featured some frantic competition as drivers wrestled with a mix of pack drafting and tandem drafting. Drivers paired up in the two-car drafts but also merged into the larger pack of cars.
The race climate changed dramatically with 35 laps to go when a 16-car crash near the front of the lead pack scrambled the order.
The smashup started when Mike Wallace and James Buescher made contact in the middle of a large group of cars. Wallace had just completed a position swap with Kevin Harvick in a tandem draft. Wallace and Buescher lost control of their cars, and much of the following traffic was swept into the melee.
Involved at one level or another in the crash, among others, were Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Cole Whitt, Brad Keselowski, John Wes Townley, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Casey Roderick.
The crash trimmed the field considerably, and Justin Allgaier, Joey Logano and Danica Patrick led the field to the green with 28 laps to go.
Five laps later, the caution flew again as Brad Sweet slid off the racing surface after his tandem draft with Stenhouse Jr. resulted in the Sweet car sailing out of control.
On the next restart, Kurt Busch and Stenhouse led the way. Stenhouse produced the next caution a lap later as he tapped Jeffrey Earnhardt from behind, sending Earnhardt into a spin and into the wall in front of a mass of traffic. Patrick was hit in the middle of that traffic, lost control and slammed into the inside wall.
Before leaving the scene for the infield medical center, Earnhardt issued a single-finger salute to Stenhouse.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.