DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kyle Busch used incomparable driving skills to nip defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart at the finish line by a record 0.013 seconds in Saturday night’s 34th annual Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway.
Busch, who was able to save the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota despite it being sideways a couple of times during the race, found himself in eighth position on the final green-white-checkered restart. With smoke coming from the back of his car, Busch and Stewart pulled away from the rest of the pack setting up a thrilling final duel for the checkered flag coming off of Turn 4.
Busch timed the slingshot move perfectly to edge Stewart at the start/finish line.
“I don’t know how many times I spun out but didn’t spin out,” Busch exclaimed. “Amazing race. I’m glad to be standing in victory lane – starting off the year right, hopefully.”
“There are a lot of guys that wouldn’t have caught that. He did a fantastic job with that save,” Stewart said of Busch. “I’m sitting there and the green is still out. I’m like, ‘Man, that’s the coolest save I’ve seen in a long time.’ ”
Stewart and many of the drivers praised the big-pack racing that produced 26 lead changes (two shy of the record) among 13 drivers.
“I actually had fun racing at Daytona again which I haven't had for a while, so I'm really, really appreciative to the work that NASCAR has done in the off-season and the test session and even after the test of the changes that they made to try to make it better for us out there,” Stewart said. “I had more fun as a driver tonight than what we’ve had in the past.”
Said third-place finisher Marcos Ambrose: “What an incredible job NASCAR has done to get back to this style of racing. I think all the drivers appreciate it. It’s definitely a lot more fun, more entertaining for the fans, and more in control for the drivers.”
Busch took Toyota to Gatorade Victory Lane for the first time in the non-points race with the team’s back-up car following an incident during practice.
“It was a fun race,” Busch said. “I thought a lot about how the pack was back. There’s certainly some moments when we were all pushing each other. It’s a tense pack. It’s not like 2000 to 2005 pack where you couldn’t really bump each other, you couldn’t really get to each other, you were racing around and made holes whenever you could make holes.
“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.”
Tickets for the 54th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 26 as well as other Speedweeks 2012 events can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
If you are unable to attend in person, be sure to tune in to the Daytona 500 on FOX on Sunday, Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. ET.
Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Facebook (www.facebook.com/DaytonaInternationalSpeedway) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/disupdates) and fans can also follow NASCAR (@NASCAR) and hashtags #NASCAR and #DAYTONA500.
Bobby Gerhart Wins Eighth Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200
Earlier in the day, a green-white-checkered finish led to a thrilling start to Speedweeks 2012 as Bobby Gerhart kicked off the 60th anniversary of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards with his third consecutive victory – and eighth overall – in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona International Speedway.
“That last lap was like a dream,” said Gerhart, who led only the final lap and has now won the season opener six of the last eight years. “I had a good run and went for the lead. It was unbelievable.”
After Gerhart’s pole-winning qualifying run around the 2.5-mile tri-oval was disallowed, the team took a provisional and started the race from the 42nd position.
Following a similar game plan as last year, Gerhart pitted for fuel on Lap 1 and went down a lap, but his No. 5 Lucas Oil Slick Chevrolet was the beneficiary of the first caution, enabling him to get back on the lead lap and top off with fuel for the final time on Lap 10.
During the final caution, Gerhart – who was the only driver in the 43-car field to have previously posted a win at the “World Center of Racing” – was running seventh and Brandon McReynolds – son of former NASCAR crew chief and current television analyst Larry McReynolds – was in the lead.
McReynolds tried desperately to conserve fuel while leading 64 of the 83 laps in his first showing on the high banks of Daytona. Leading the pack out of Turn 4 and into the tri-oval to take the checkered flag,
McReynolds’ attempt proved futile as the No. 4 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet slowed and coasted across the finish line in 11th place.
Drew Charlson and Will Kimmel – nephew of nine-time ARCA champion and 23rd-place finisher Frank Kimmel– rounded out the top three.