Kurt Busch Last Lap Daytona 500 Winner

Winner Kurt busch celebrates with team at finish line. [Joe Jennings Photo]

Winner Kurt Busch celebrates with team at finish line. [Joe Jennings Photo]

By Joe Jennings

DAYTONA BEACH – Kurt Busch has had more than his share of bad luck, but today in the 59th running of the Daytona 500, his luck turned and he won the Great American Race, leading only one lap, the all-important final circuit.
The winner drove the Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford, one of four entries from Stewart-Haas Racing.

“There is nothing predictable about this race anymore and the more years that have gone by that I didn’t win I kept trying to go back to patterns that I had seen in the past,” Busch said. “My mirror fell off with 30 laps to go and I couldn’t even see out the back. And I thought that was an omen. Throw caution to the wind. The more unpredictability that keeps unfolding at the Daytona 500, I predicted it. It just got crazy and wild and I am so proud of all the drivers at the end.

“We put on a show for a full fuel run and nobody took each other out and it was one of the smartest chess games I have seen out there. All the hard work that Ford and SHR put into this — this Ford Fusion is in Daytona’s victory lane.”

Concerning his fuel supply, he added, “I almost forgot to drive the line I was supposed to drive because I was shutting off all my switches, going to reserve fuel and saying a Hail Mary. It all turned out. Here we are in victory lane. I can’t believe it.”

Team co-owner Tony Stewart expressed his delight with the victory. “The look on Gene Haas’ face right now, that smile, make it all worth it,” the retired driver said. “It has been a really long hard winter, and I am so proud of everyone at SHR and Ford Performance. They really worked their tails off to get ready. Doug Yates and everybody at Roush Yates Engines brought unbelievable power all week.

“It was a crazy race, even crazier to sit and watch it from a pit box finally. If I had known all I had to do was retire, I would have retired 17 years ago if I knew it was what it took to win the race. Kurt did an amazing job. He doesn’t even have a rear view mirror. The mirror folded on him. His spotter, Tony Raines did an amazing job. That is the most composed I have ever seen Kurt at the end of a race. He deserved this.”

Ford went to victory lane for the 15th time in the 500 and marked its fifth win in most recent nine years’ running. Overall, Ford has amassed 649 Cup Series victories.

The Nevada native won for the 29th time in 577 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races. In 32 races at DIS, he now has one win and 17 top-10 finishes.

Although his crew projected he was going to come-up short on fuel by a half-lap, he managed to save enough to make it to the end. Other contenders weren’t as fortunate, including Chase Elliott, who ran out while in lead, Kyle Larson and 2016 runner-up Martin Truex Jr.

Youthful Ryan Blaney brought the Wood Brothers Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire and Auto Center Ford home second .228 seconds behind the victor.

Said Blaney, who was driving a back-up car, “Well, it took longer to get going than I thought. I tried to make a move with 10 to go and I didn’t go anywhere. I thought we were kind of stuck. Luckily we had the 22 with us. I kind of helped him, and he kind of helped me. Late there we got a big run into (Turn) 1 and we kind of all separated, and I got a big pull. I got to second behind the 41 somehow and that kept us going the whole way. I laid back to the 47 thinking I’d get a good run, and I was sputtering and running out of gas on the backstretch. It was a solid race. It was such a fast Ford. For (it) to be a backup car, that really means a lot for Ford and Motorcraft. Not what we wanted but a pretty good run and start to the season.”

In third place, A. J. Allmendinger posted his third top-10 finish in 16 races at DIS. He drove the Kroger Quick List Chevrolet.

Aric Almirola and Paul Menard took fourth and fifth place, respectively.

Rounding out the top-10 finishers were Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip, Matt DiBenedetto and Trevor Bayne.
Waltrip, a two-time 500 winner, drove in his 30th and final race.

Larson sputtered to 12th, Truex to 13th, Elliott to 14th and 2016 victor Denny Hamlin to 17th.

Kevin Harvick, who led a race-high 50 laps, finished 22nd.

Eight caution flags slowed the race for 40 of the 200 laps. Multi-car wrecks were the basis for most of the cautions.

25 cars were running at the finish and some of them had been caught up in accidents, as three-fourths of the cars sustained damage.

On lap 105, three potential winners were eliminated in a six-car wreck. It started when Kyle Busch spun and was struck by oncoming traffic after having a tire problem. Caught up in the melee were Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Ty Dillon, Erik Jones and Elliott Sadler.

While Earnhardt was able to drive to his pit but his crew was unable to make necessary repairs under NASCAR’s new 5-minute rule.

The race was run in three segments with Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick winning the first two and Busch the final one.

The 59th 500 was run-off in three hours and 29 minutes at an average speed of 143.817 miles per hour.

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