Daytona Beach, FL – Kurt Busch rebounded from a late-race crash and got pushing help from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. during a green-white- checkered finish to win Friday night's Subway Jalapeno 250 Nationwide Series event at Daytona International Speedway.
In a wild and crash-filled race that featured a track-record 42 lead changes, Busch was involved in a 14-car accident on lap 66 when Mike Wallace and Kevin Harvick made contact, triggering the melee. Busch made numerous pit stops during the caution for repairs to his damaged car.
Busch drove his way to the front again in the closing laps, but a caution for debris set up the two-lap overtime finish. Busch and rookie Austin Dillon hooked up in a tandem after the final restart before he got help from Stenhouse to move ahead of Joey Logano for the lead on the last lap.
Busch crossed the finish line ahead of Stenhouse and Michael Annett when a big wreck occurred on the frontstretch. Dillon, who had to start the 250-mile race from the rear of the field since his pole-winning car failed post-qualifying inspection, was among those involved in the incident.
"We just won at Daytona," a very jubilant Busch said in Daytona's Victory Lane. "This is unbelievable. Passion and heart - that's all I can give. That's all I can do right now. To do this for (car owner) James Finch, I'm hoarse right now because I've been screaming so loud, this is awesome."
Busch drove the No. 1 Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing, which is an underfunded single-car team in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series. He drives the No. 51 car for the team in Sprint Cup.
"To be an underfunded team and to come out here only four times a year, we'll be at Indy (Nationwide race) in a few weeks, but it's amazing to do what we can do as a little team and to persevere," he said. "And Ricky Stenhouse, who's in a Ford, thanks to him. This Chevrolet is in victory lane."
After losing his ride with Penske Racing at the end of the 2011 season, Busch verbally agreed to drive for Finch's team during this season. But he almost lost his ride with the team after he was suspended for the June 10 Cup race at Pocono. NASCAR determined Busch violated his probation when he made threatening comments to a reporter from The Sporting News following the completion of the June 2 Nationwide event at Dover.
Busch redeemed himself with the team two weeks ago at Sonoma, CA, where he finished third. Now he's delivered them a Nationwide win at Daytona.
"I'm a racer. I don't know much about anything else," he said.
Busch recorded his second Nationwide win of the season and the fifth of his career. His first victory this season came in April at Richmond, where he gave his younger brother, Kyle, his first win as a team owner in NASCAR's second- tier series.
Stenhouse, the defending Nationwide champion, crossed the finish line 0.054 seconds behind Busch.
"He was fast all night, and I just pushed him to the win," Stenhouse said. "I was hoping I could make a move there, but I saw (Dillon) and everybody coming, so I kind of tried to duck out and block them, and I ended up second. It was a fun race."
Annett finished third, while Dillon slid sideways across the line in fourth. Dillon lost control of his car. Kyle Busch ended up slamming into him before his car shot up the track and then made contact with the wall.
Logano, who won this race one year ago, took the fifth spot, followed by Elliott Sadler, the current points leader, Justin Allgaier and Mike Bliss. Timmy Hill and Sam Hornish Jr. completed the top-10.
Danica Patrick led 13 laps before she was involved in a crash on the backstretch with 17 laps remaining. Patrick spun around coming out of turn two and slammed into the inside retaining wall. She ended up finishing 31st.
"Bummer," Patrick said. "I thought we were going to win tonight. It just kind of felt like the IndyCar days when you're close a couple of times. It's just frustrating when that's the case. What are you going to do? There was an accident happening in front of me, and the best thing that you can do is to try and get around it."
Patrick's incident occurred just after Stenhouse bumped Jeffrey Earnhardt from behind and spun him around, collecting several other cars.
"I saw Ricky coming behind me," Earnhardt said. "He gave me a good shot down there in the middle of (turns) one and two, and I thought that was pretty aggressive. Then going down the backstretch, he ran back up on me and hit me even harder and turned me sideways."
The 250-mile race ran relatively calm until the big accident occurred two- thirds of the way into it. Wallace took blame for the incident, which took out several winning contenders such as Brad Keselowski, Harvick, and James Buescher, who won the Nationwide season-opener at this 2.5-mile superspeedway in February.
"I guess I screwed up," Wallace admitted. "I made the switch to the inside on the frontstretch, and then I slid back up in front of (Harvick). I guess I caused a wreck."
Sadler's point lead remained at two over his Richard Childress Racing teammate, Dillon. Stenhouse moved to within 18 points of the leader.