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Kyle Busch, Tandem Haters Win Bud Shootout

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 19 2012

Kyle Busch's victory in the Bud Shootout was made more remarkable by his ability to survive a couple of dramatic skirmishes. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Laawdermilk)

Kyle Busch passed Tony Stewart heading to the finish line on the final lap and went on to win the Budweiser Shootout exhibition race for Sprint Cup cars at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night.

The margin of victory was the narrowest in Shootout history – .013 seconds.

It was Busch’s first Shootout win and it came on a night when he and his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota took such a physical beating that just finishing the race was a feel-good accomplishment.

“Man, it was a fun race,” Busch said. “It was intense. Guys pushing all the time, them pushing on you, pushing five rows deep, everybody squirrelly, the back end of the cars being real light. It was a great race from my seat, hopefully it was from everybody else’s.”

But also winning – perhaps more importantly winning – were the changes which NASCAR officials mandated in an effort to rid restrictor-plate racing of tandem racing.

Saturday night’s race featured virtually no two-car packs and did feature the big-pack racing which became the trademark of events at Daytona and Talladega pre-Cars of Tomorrow.

“Oh yeah, NASCAR definitely accomplished their goal,” driver David Ragan said. “We can’t run together very long at all, unless we’re overheating, so, yeah, I think a lap or two is really about all.”

“Good to see the pack back like that,” Busch said.

“Just pack racing, it’s back,” five-time champion Jimmie Johnson said.

Jeff Gordon had the lead crossing the line with five laps to go and had Hendrick Racing teammate Johnson on his rear bumper.

Jeff Gordon's car goes upside down during a late-race wreck. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Laawdermilk)

With four to go, Busch took the lead with a push from Greg Biffle. On the next lap, Stewart moved to the lead.

Shortly after that, a big wreck sent Gordon barrel-rolling down the front stretch. Also caught up was Johnson, Kurt Busch, AJ Allmendinger and, even, Kyle Busch. The wreck sent the race to a green/white/checkered restart.

Stewart had  the lead on the restart with Marcos Ambrose with him on the front row. Ambrose quickly was pushed to the lead by Brad Keselowski. With Kyle Busch pushing, Stewart recaptured the lead with one to go.

Busch stayed on Stewart’s bumper up the front stretch on the final lap, then jumped high in the tri-oval and edged Stewart to the finish line.

Stewart says he was in the wrong place coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap – he was in the lead.

“I was just happy that I was in the pairing at the end, to be up there,” Stewart said. “But I think history shows that you want to be that second guy I think in all reality. Especially here, it just seems like for some reason you can make that move here. Talladega for some reason, it seems like you make the move, the start/finish line being further around the tri oval, almost seems like it’s too early when you make it. It just seems like that second spot is kind of the one you want to be in.

“I’m not ruling out that you can’t win it from being that lead car. You got to plan ahead for it. As soon as

The packs are back at Daytona. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Laawdermilk)

we came off of turn two, I was already thinking about it. I knew how much of a gap we had, the third and fourth. Had that flexibility to do that without us getting freight-trained. You knew it was coming; it was just a matter of what to do to guard against it. Guys are figuring out what to do to get by, now you have to figure out what to do to not let them get by you.”

While tandem racing pulled a disappearing act in the Shootout, big wrecks re-appeared.

It didn’t take long for one of those big wrecks to strike. On lap nine, Ragan got into the back of Paul Menard and the sparks began flying. Also caught up were Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton and Michael Waltrip.

“Everybody was real racy and I just got into the back of Menard,” Ragan said. “You get a good run and you’re pushing a little bit and I guess he was pushing whoever was in front of him and when you’ve got the meat in between the sandwich you usually get wrecked. If I would have known that he was pushing the car in front of him, I probably could have backed off a little bit, but just probably pushing a little too hard.”

In the second segment, with 21 laps to to, another big wreck occurred and this one started when Ambrose rear-ended Joey Logano. Also involved were Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kenseth.

Asked if the 500 will feature as much mayhem as the Shootout, Menard said, “Oh yes. It is going to be chaotic. It is going to be exciting for sure. We have to figure out if we want to just ride around or not because it is a big big chance you are going to wreck. We don’t like to wreck; they don’t pay many points back in 43rd.”

Then there was the big wreck with two to go.

Kyle Busch himself was involved in that one and in a big way. His car got sideways after being hit by Gordon and produced a rooster tail

Kyle Busch won a wild one in Daytona Saturday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Laawdermilk)

of sparks as he hit the apron.

But, he was able to overcome the situation – and then Stewart.

“It was certainly cool,” Busch said. “I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t recommend everybody do it every day. But certainly it got my attention.

“I was just glad that I was able to pull through it, to be honest with you, to be able to straighten it back out, keep going. Checked my mirror. Everybody ways stabbing the brakes, trying to slow down, thinking I’m going to wreck. We get back going, they’re like, huh, all right.

“It was certainly cool because I was trying to push Newman and hook up with him, then he was hooked up with whoever was in front of him. I’m like, All right, fine. The hole opened up behind Stewart. I ducked in behind there knowing he had a fast car, pushed him. We got up through there. He made the way to the outside and everything. Coming to the line, I’ve been in that situation reverse before with Tony. Hadn’t ended up so well. This time it turned out all right. We made it past him and beat him to the line, so it was cool.”

When asked the big question – will next Sunday’s Dayton 500 feature more of the same? – Busch said, “Yeah, it will be a little bit calmer. It’s all in the drivers’ hands, how boring or how exciting we want to make the race. I think tonight’s was pretty exciting, the reason being because it’s a non-points race.

“When you get to the Daytona 500, there’s going to be some moments there where you’re pushing, trying to see what your car is going to do, whatnot. You have to keep your water temperatures in check, the front and back bumpers on your car, you got to keep the sides on your car, you have to be there at the end. When it comes down to the last 50 miles, 25 miles, 10 miles, it’s going to get hectic. We’re probably going to be spinning each other out and hopefully being able to miss it all.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 19 2012
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