DAYTONA, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The 59th DAYTONA 500 was a blockbuster to watch at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday thanks to several wrecks–some of which involved ten-plus cars–casting some of the race’s most beloved drivers out of the running for the coveted trophy; and when it wasn’t wrecks, it was loss of gas. All of these incidents left the field open for Kurt Busch (#41, below), a seasoned racing champion, to finally net his very first DAYTONA 500 victory.
The first wreck came in Stage 2 in Turn 3 when Kyle Busch (#18)’s car got a flat rear tire, sending the car out of control. The car turned, causing several cars behind him to crash, and one, trying to avoid the wreck, hit the wall. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (#88)’s car sustained heavy damage as it ran over Busch’s hood. Six cars total were involved in the wreck: Busch (18), Earnhardt (88), Erik Jones (77), Matt Kenseth (20), Ty Dillon (13), Elliott Sadler (7). NASCAR’s strict regulation to not replace damaged car parts with brand new ones rendered some cars unfit to return to the track. Busch’s car was clearly totaled, but Earnhardt, whom many were hoping to win, given his comeback after the concussion and his successful performance throughout Speedweeks leading up to Sunday, was also out of the race.
The next wreck came in the 127th lap in a spot close to the first–in Turn 4. All four Stewart-Haas Fords, including Kurt Busch, were involved in the 10-plus-car wreck. Busch only sustained minor damage, and after the required five-minute repair period, kept racing.
The race overall involved drivers trying to secure their winning position from 100+ laps ahead, which involved them sometimes going three-wide and not letting others through, particularly with the new Stage system in which drivers accumulate points at each stage. Danica Patrick (#10), who had benefitted from the loss of drivers in the first wreck and had gotten as far up as second place, got caught up in the second wreck. “I don’t really know [what happened],” she said in the garage. “I just know we were all three-wide and it looks like the 6 [Trevor Bayne] and 48 [Jimmy Johnson] had something happen. There was nowhere to go. They just kept coming and hitting me.”
There were more wrecks where that came from, but one other factor caused a major loss as well: running out of gas. Chase Elliott was another fan-favorite to win Sunday given his opportunity at a trifecta: He’d won the DAYTONA 500 pole and the Can-Am Duel over the weekend. Sunday’s win would’ve landed him in the annals of racing history. After getting out of the race, he and his father left the premises immediately without speaking to the press.
The bulk of Busch’s competition was gone from the track, including Michael Waltrip (#15) and Denny Hamlin (#11, last year’s DAYTONA 500 champion) but as he admitted in a post-race interview, he nearly lost the same way. “I almost forgot to drive the line I was supposed to because I was shutting off all my switches, going to reserve fuel and saying a hail mary.” He arose in the final lap and got ahead of Ryan Blaney (#21, 2nd place finish) and A.J. Allmendinger (#47, 3rd place finish) to finally fulfill a decades-long goal.
The cherry on top of Busch’s victory is that with all that was happening around him, he lost his rearview mirror with 30 laps remaining and still made it. “I thought that was an omen,” he said after winning the race. “Throw caution to the wind. [I figured] since I lost it, I wouldn’t be needing it again.”
Mellissa Thomas is Editor of the Florida National News. The Jamaica-born author and journalist is a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with degrees in Entertainment Business and Film. She also helps authors-to-be double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book. You can drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @FnnSocial.