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Buescher wins wild Nationwide race
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.
What a wild day in Daytona.
In a race that started cleanly with drivers working well in both tandems and the multicar packs drafting successfully at Daytona International Speedway, things went awry quickly once the first crash came. After that, Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Drive4COPD 300 became a costly outing for a variety of teams.
NASCAR on FOX brings live coverage of the Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway on Sunday. The green flag drops at 1 p.m. ET, with coverage on FOX beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Not for James Buescher, the 21-year-old surprise winner who survived the last-lap carnage to emerge as the victor. Buescher picked his way through an accident among the leaders to take his first win in the series.
“(It) got down to the end, after we beat all the fenders off of it, beat 'em back out, didn't have anybody that wanted to draft with us,” Buescher said. “I was just trying to do everything I could to stay in the top 10 with no drafting help.
“They all piled up in front of me and we made it through. It's hard to describe the feeling when you make it through the wreck and you're the only guy. You don't see anybody in front of you coming to the checkered flag. It's pretty incredible. Definitely will never forget it.”
Brad Keselowski finished second, followed by Elliott Sadler.
“That's what's racing is here,” Keselowski said. “I don't know if that's good or bad. Feel like I won the lottery just to finish (second). I also feel like I was that close to winning at Daytona, and I want to win a race at Speedweeks so bad.”
Sadler, who was originally scored in second then moved to third, agreed.
“It’s normal Daytona,” Sadler said. “You don't never know till you see the checkered flag what's really going to happen.”
Sadler had up-close knowledge of that again Saturday.
Tony Stewart, who had led 25 laps, was working with Sadler trying to get back to the front of the pack. Joey Logano got a push and charged to the front of the pack. Kurt Busch, who had led 39 laps, was trying to hold the lead. And suddenly everyone was piling up again. Buescher was 11th when the wreck started.
“I need to see a replay,” Logano said. “Who even won the race? Whoever won that race is going to be lucky. I thought I was going to win. I had Trevor (Bayne) pushing me there … I was like, ‘All right, we got something.’ We were going and they were coming up three-wide up top knowing that was going to leave Trevor behind, but I had to do it. Then that was, I don’t know. I got hit somewhere. I don’t even know how I got hit – I got spun out so I don’t know how it happened.”
Busch took a hard hit into the outside wall and the field began piling in. Stewart was caught up in the crash.
That multicar crash, this one involving 12 drivers, was one of three major ones in the race.
The previous wild incident involved a slate of drivers racing for the win in the final laps. With six to go, the field was three wide for the lead battling for position. As the front group tried to sort itself out, David Ragan tagged Sam Hornish Jr. from the rear and Hornish turned around into the field barreling around the track. He came across in front of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who took a hit then pulled to the outside as the drivers behind them began spinning across the track.
Fourteen cars would be involved in the accident.
Polesitter Danica Patrick did not make it through the race unscathed, either.
On Lap 49, she was hit by teammate Cole Whitt, who spun her off the track. Patrick’s JR Motorsports crew worked frantically to make repairs in an attempt to get her back on the track as Patrick is in the championship points race. She would return to the track on Lap 98 in an effort to salvage as many championship driver points as possible.
On Lap 104, the expected multicar crash ignited.
Cars at the front of the pack began bouncing off one another but saved a potential spin at the last minute. Drivers at the front of the race made contact and bobbled, but it was the cars deeper in the pack that couldn’t avoid getting collected. The pack stacked up on one another, trying to stay out of trouble, but as things began to unfold the hard crashes were sparked when Kenny Wallace was shoved up toward the wall and slammed Justin Allgaier into the outer wall. Reed Sorenson plowed into Allgaier’s car, actually lifting it up onto the SAFER barrier.
In the end, a four-minute, 12 second red-flag period halted the action as the SAFER barrier had a splitter wedged in it.
It was the latest crash in the weekend that left fans and competitors breathing a sigh of relief that no one was seriously injured — and that destroyed a host of cars. This one counted 19 as victims of the pack mentality that forces drivers and teams to work in massive packs trying to race at top speed on the track.
“Everybody is trying to win the race,” Sadler said. “Of course, they're going to try to do everything they can to win the race. Sometimes you're in the middle of it. Sometimes you miss it. It's Daytona, guys. This is Daytona. I think everybody gets a free pass to take free chances when you're here for Speedweeks.”
Pit road was problematic for some, too. As cars pitted during the caution for Patrick’s crash, Kyle Busch was exiting his pit stall and hit Whitt, who was entering his stall. Whitt spun on pit road and ended up facing oncoming traffic, but returned to the race.
In the end, that proved to be a minor incident in a race in which drivers crashed regularly — and a first time Nationwide winner went to Victory Lane.
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