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Busch Cashes In On Last Lap Fracas To Win Clash

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 10 2021

Chase Elliott chases down Ryan Blaney on final lap of Tuesday night’s Clash at Daytona. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Racing is a tough sport, one that doesn’t foster friendships and can be hard on those that exist among people who compete against one another on a regular basis. 

That harsh reality struck Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney in Tuesday night’s 35-lap Busch Clash at Daytona International Speedway. Elliott and Blaney are good friends off the track, but in the non-points event that kicks off a new racing season they focused solely on their job – winning races.

However, the move Elliott made on the final lap in the road course’s frontstretch chicane didn’t work out for either driver. Blaney, the leader at the time, ended up wrecked and Elliott had to settle for second as the third-place Kyle Busch shot past them and on to victory.

After the race Blaney told Elliott, who like him comes from a racing family, “If you’re going to make a move like that, make sure you at least win the race. Don’t hand it to the third-place guy.”

 “Listen,” continued Blaney, who admitted he would make the same move if in the same position, “we’re really good friends off the race track, but we’re both really hard competitors. We race each other really hard. I know he’s going to make a big move. Any competitor would. If you don’t go in there trying to win the race, what are you there for?

“Chase and I are good enough friends to where we’re going to talk about it. Obviously, I’m not happy with him. No good friends would be happy with each other if one ended up getting wrecked by the other one. I’ve always said that’s a good thing about having friends that you race against. You can sit down and talk without it being a huge blowup argument. We’re definitely not going to see eye-to-eye on it.”   

The stage was set for the final lap fireworks when Martin Truex Jr. crashed on lap 28, sliding on mud that had been knocked onto the track at the exit of the backstretch chicane. Blaney inherited the lead, but then along with other numerous lead-lap cars pitted for tires during the final yellow flag. Elliott remained on the track and assumed the lead. When the race restarted with five laps remaining Elliott’s Chevrolet led and Blaney’s Ford was seventh, the first car on new tires. Blaney quickly moved through the field, catching and passing Elliott with two laps remaining. However, he could never shake the Georgia driver and Elliott remained close on the final lap. 

“I wish I would have done a better job that whole last lap,” said Blaney, who had to settle for a 13th-place finish. “I got into (turn) one and kind of slipped. Kind of let him get close in (turn) three. I thought I was even good off of (turn) six. Then I hit that mud. 

“I used my tires up so much. I was on a little bit fresher stuff, but I used them up hard to try to get there, get to second, get the lead. They were kind of biting me. I was asking too much of them the last lap.”

 When the two charged into the frontstretch’s chicane for the final time, Elliott dove to Blaney’s inside. The two hit and Blaney spun out of the chicane. Elliott slowed after exiting the chicane and a charging Busch blew past him to claim his second Busch Clash victory. His other win came in 2012, also via a last-lap pass.

 Elliott said his angle entering the chicane was “really bad.”

“I just had to stop to try to make the corner,” Elliott continued. “At that point, we were side-by-side, trying to stay off the curb. You roll in there too fast and you jump the curbs, he drives back by on the straightaway. You roll in there slow, we both take up one lane, we both wreck. 

“I think you have to try to win the race. I mean, if I’m sorry about trying to win a race, I’m in the wrong business here.”

Blaney and Elliott both led four laps each in the event. Denny Hamlin was the race’s top lap-leader, setting the pace on four occasions for 21 laps before finishing sixth. 

Deb Williams is in her fourth decade of covering motorsports. The former editor of NASCAR Winston Cup Scene and managing editor of GT Motorsports has also covered auto racing for United Press International, USA Today and The Charlotte Observer. The 1990 and 1996 National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year has authored five books and hosts the podcast “Racing Now and Then.”

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 10 2021
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