Brad Keselowski dominated much of the evening, then emerged from a thrilling NASCAR Overtime finish Saturday night to win the 58th annual Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola, his first victory at Daytona International Speedway.
On the Lap 160 restart that followed the race’s final caution flag, Keselowski and his No. 2 Detroit Genuine Parts Ford got some significant help via a push from Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano and went on to edge runner-up Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota) by 0.159 seconds. Busch, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, was using a back-up car, having wrecked his primary ride on Friday during a practice session.
Trevor Bayne (No. 6 AdvoCare Ford) finished third. Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford) finished fourth, with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford) coming home fifth. Kurt Busch (No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet) finished 23rd after spinning out coming off Turn 4 when he was challenging for the lead.
Keselowski had the night’s strongest car, by far. He led 115 of the 161 laps.
“It’s Daytona; it’s huge, I love this place,” Keselowski said. “Joey has won here and he’s really a pro, especially on that restart. He gave me that push I needed to get to the front and here we are at Daytona in Victory Lane.
Regarding his previous frustration of not winning at DIS, “it has been a pain in the you-know-what,” Keselowski joked, adding, “I’ve doubted myself [here]. But what a great effort this was for our whole team.”
Said Busch: “I just didn’t have enough … no doubt that it was definitely a track position race for sure. I mean, it seemed if we could have got the 2 car out of there, it probably would have been a decent race, but that thing was just so strong that there wasn't much passing him.”
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Toyota), champion of this year’s DAYTONA 500, was attempting to become only the sixth driver to win both of DIS’ NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in the same season. Hamlin’s hopes for a sweep were dashed by a 17th-place finish.
The complexion of the race changed quickly and dramatically on Lap 90, when a Turn 1 accident collected 22 cars including those driven by former race champions Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, David Ragan and polesitter Greg Biffle.
Earnhardt, the defending race champion, was trying for a third Coke Zero 400 victory. His No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet had relatively little damage and he was able to stay on the lead lap, but he ended up 21st.
Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) avoided the Lap 90 trouble and on a Lap 135 restart, only 25 laps from the finish, he was running strongly in fifth. His night ended 13 laps later, however, when he spun out and initiated a multi-car Turn 1 incident. Stewart, who is retiring after this season, was making his final NASCAR Sprint Cup start at DIS; he also was trying to win the Coke Zero 400 for the fifth time which would have tied David Pearson’s record for victories in the event.
Tickets for all Daytona International Speedway events – including the 2017 DAYTONA 500 – are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat (username: DISupdates), and by downloading the new version of Daytona International Speedway’s mobile app, for the latest speedway news.