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Kurt Busch rides last-lap pass to Daytona 500 victory

by Mike Haag | Posted on Sunday, February 26th, 2017

Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford, celebrates with his crew after winning the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kurt Busch used a last-lap pass to win the 59th annual DAYTONA 500 Sunday in a raucous, rough-and-tumble season-opening race for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski after winning the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford), a three-time DAYTONA 500 runner-up and the 2004 series champion, made a high-line move coming off the Daytona International Speedway backstretch to pass Kyle Larson (No. 42 Target Chevrolet), as Larson was running out of fuel. Busch beat Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford) at the line by 0.228 seconds, with AJ Allmendinger (Kroger Click List Chevrolet) finishing third.

“My rear-view mirror fell off with 30 laps to go,” Busch said. “I said to myself, ‘that’s an omen.’”

The story of this victory comes with a couple of significant sub-plots. Busch’s crew chief Tony Gibson is a native of Daytona Beach, while Busch’s car owner Tony Stewart got a victory in the first race since he retired from driving after the 2016 season.

“I ran this damn race for 17 years and couldn’t win it,’ Stewart said. “Now, to win it as an owner … this is awesome.”

Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Polesitter Chase Elliott (No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet) led 39 laps and appeared headed toward Gatorade Victory Lane, but ran out of fuel himself with three laps remaining, giving the lead to Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 BASS Pro Shops/TRACKER BOATS Toyota), who led for one lap before Blaney assumed the lead. Elliott finished 14th.

Elliott and two-time DAYTONA 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet) started on the front row and led the 40-car field to the green flag. It was a back-to-the-future feel: their famous fathers who were bitter rivals, NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees Bill Elliott and Dale Earnhardt, started 1-2 four times during their legendary careers.

This race will be remembered, in part, for a series of multi-car incidents that involved many of NASCAR’s biggest names and whittled the field in dramatic fashion.

  • On Lap 105, Kyle Busch’s car (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota) had a tire go down in Turn 3, causing him to spin and collect five other cars, including Earnhardt’s Chevrolet, which had been leading the race since Lap 97. The right front of Earnhardt’s car rolled atop Busch’s Toyota, causing considerable damage – to the radiator and suspension, primarily – which forced Earnhardt out of the race. Earnhardt, NASCAR’s long-running most popular driver, was racing for the first since the middle of last season when he was sidelined due to concussion-like symptoms.
  • On Lap 128 in Turn 4, 17 cars were involved in another incident that ended the day for two-time DAYTONA 500 champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet), and a strong-running Danica Patrick (No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford), among others. Two other former champions, Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota) and Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford) were able to return after some repairs, with their chances of winning as dented as their cars.
  • On Lap 142, 12 cars tangled on the backstretch, knocking out two more big names – former DAYTONA 500 champion Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Cessna McDonald’s Chevrolet) and former series champion Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford).

Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane with team co-owner Tony Stewart after winning the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“The more that becomes unpredictable about Daytona, the more it becomes predictable to predict unpredictability,” Busch said. “The more I run this race the more I just throw caution to the wind.”

Speedweeks 2017 served as the debut for NASCAR’s new national series format that divides races into three stages with extra points awarded to the top-10 finishers in each of the first two stages. The DAYTONA 500 had a 60-60-80 lap division. Kyle Busch led at the end of the first stage, with Harvick leading at the end of the second.

Hamlin, the defending race champion, finished 17th, thwarted in his attempt to become only the fourth driver to win consecutive DAYTONA 500s. (Richard Petty in 1973-74, Cale Yarborough in 1983-84 and Sterling Marlin in 1994-95 are the three to achieve the feat.)

A detail view of the helmet of Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford, after winning the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Hamlin was one of 10 former DAYTONA 500 champions in the field, a group that included Michael Waltrip (No. 15 Aaron’s Toyota), the champion in 2001 and ’03 who finished eighth in his final NASCAR race.

Tickets for all Daytona International Speedway events are available at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP as well as through PrimeSport.com, the official ticket exchange and travel package provider of Daytona International Speedway. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat, and by downloading Daytona International Speedway’s mobile app, for the latest Speedway news throughout the season.

Story courtesy of Daytona International Speedway Media Relations Department.  Photos courtesy of NASCAR.

The Air Force Thunderbirds perform a flyover prior to the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

 

Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Chevrolet, leads the field to the green flag to start the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

 

Chase Elliott, driver of the #24 NAPA Chevrolet, leads the field past the green flag to start the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Ford, leads a pack of cars during the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

 

Drivers including Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Ford, Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 Aspen Dental Ford, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Ford, are involved in an on-track incident during the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

 

Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota, Erik Jones, driver of the #77 5-hour Energy Extra Strength Toyota, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, and Ty Dillon, driver of the #13 GEICO Chevrolet, are involved in an on-track incident during the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

 

Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

 

Cars race during the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Ryan Blaney, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, races Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford, during the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

 

Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford, takes the checkered flag to win the 59th Annual DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2017 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

 

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.