Daytona Beach, FL (Sports Network) - James Buescher happened to be at the right place at the right time to win Saturday's wreck-plagued DRIVE4COPD 300 Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
Buescher avoided a big wreck on the frontstretch and then miraculously pulled ahead of the field on the final lap before NASCAR displayed the caution flag to end the race.
Kurt Busch was leading coming out of final turn on the second-to-last lap, but Busch and several of the other frontrunners were caught up in an 11-car accident along the frontstretch.
Buescher was running in the 11th position when he came out of turn four. He drove down the track to avoid the incident and then moved into the lead. It took NASCAR officials a couple of minutes to review the running order after they issued the caution. Buescher was declared the winner, as he claimed his first win in a NASCAR national touring series race.
"Nobody wanted to work with me there at the end, and I was all on my own in a tandem-draft and just got the best chance I could," Buescher said. "I saw them get together, and I went to the bottom and kept my foot in it. They started coming back down the track, and I somehow squeaked through there and beat everybody through. I dodged a bullet.
The 21-year-old Texas-native is a full-time competitor in the Camping World Truck Series and part-timer in Nationwide this season. His first Nationwide victory came in his 35th start. Buescher drove the No.30 Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports.
It's the second time Buescher has won a race at Daytona. He took the checkered flag for the ARCA Series season-opener here three years ago.
"This is the same thing I experienced a few years back when I won my first ARCA race on a big track here at Daytona," he said. "With the second one in Daytona and first time in NASCAR, I hope there are many more to come."
The 300-mile race at Daytona featured a track record 38 lead changes among 16 different drivers but also saw its share of big wrecks, very much like Friday night's truck race at this track, which was won by rookie John King.
Danica Patrick started on the pole and led the first two laps, but Patrick became the first of many accident victims during the race. On lap 50, her new JR Motorsports teammate, Cole Whitt, a rookie in the series this season, bumped her from behind. She slid down to the apron and then shot up the track before making contact with the turn three wall.
"What the [expletive] is he thinking," Patrick said in frustration to crew chief Tony Eury Jr. over her team radio after she crashed.
Patrick spent a majority of the race in the garage area for repairs on the right-side of her car. She wound up finishing 48 laps behind in 38th place, which is her worst performance in four Nationwide races at Daytona.
"I don't think it's ever great when teammates come together," she said. "We'll have to figure out what happened and move forward."
On Friday, Patrick became just the second female to win a pole position for a Nationwide race. Shawna Robinson first did it in March 1994 at Atlanta.
The final 20 laps featured three big crashes, including the last one that concluded the race under caution. The biggest one occurred on lap 104 when, in a very tight drafting pack, Justin Allgaier got hit from behind and then hit the turn four wall, triggering the melee. Allgaier's car went on top of Reed Sorenson's vehicle during the incident. Denny Hamlin was among those involved.
"It's just so hard to control your own fate in these types of races," he said. "I was running up front right there, but it was just a chain reaction. It looked like Kyle [Busch] and Kurt [Busch] had a huge run through the middle, and it surprised some guys. And the next thing you know, the guys start moving all around, and that's where the wreck starts."
NASCAR briefly halted the race to allow track personnel to work on the SAFER barrier in turn four.
A 14-car wreck took place on the frontstretch with six laps to go.
After a lengthy review of the running order following the last crash, NASCAR determined that Brad Keselowski finished second, followed by Elliott Sadler, Whitt, and Austin Dillon, the 2011 truck champion turned rookie in Nationwide.
"I just got a little contact on the door clearing through that wreck, and I don't know how I brought this [car] home, because there was a lot of swerving there to save it," Keselowski said. "At some point, Daytona is just a roll of the dice, and I think you saw it."
Tayler Malsam, Timmy Hill, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch completed the top-10.
Stewart was attempting to win his seventh Nationwide race at Daytona, which would have put him into a tie with the late-Dale Earnhardt for most series wins here. Stewart had won the Nationwide season-opener at Daytona the past four years.
02/25 18:47:56 ET