DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — After three prior runner-up finishes in The Great American Race, Kurt Busch is a bridesmaid no more.
As first Chase Elliott, and then Martin Truex Jr. ran out of fuel within the final three laps of Sunday’s 59th running of the Daytona 500, Busch capitalized on a fading Kyle Larson by charging to the outside as Larson’s car sputtered in turn two.
The 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion then held off the advances of Ryan Blaney and A.J. Allmendinger throughout the final half-lap to notch his 29th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory.
Busch’s first Daytona 500 win came in his 16th try, and it marked the 11th time in the race’s history that a last-lap pass decided the winner.
“There isn’t a straight panel on the car, everyone was wrecking as soon as we were done with the second segment,” said Busch, who led only the final lap en route to the win. “The more that I’ve run this race, the more that I have thrown caution to the wind. Everyone did a great job not to wreck each other there at the end. This is incredible.”
In Stewart-Haas Racing’s first outing with Ford Performance, Busch was the only driver in the stable to finish the race after all three of his teammates were involved in a crash with .
Of note, Busch ran the final 30 laps of the race without any ability to see what was going on behind him.
“My rear-view mirror fell off with 30 laps to go and I had to drive defensively and had to take advantage of other people’s mistakes,” Busch explained. “I got the run from behind and then the spotter said four back … five back … five back! I didn’t think we were going to be able to hold on, but we did. Thanks to all of the family with Ford, Monster Energy, and most importantly a sold out group of fans.”
Blaney charged to second on the final lap in the famed Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford, but his car started stumbling on fuel as well and prevented him from being able to mount a charge.
“It took longer to get going than I thought!” Blaney said after the race. “I tried to make a move with like 10 to go, and it didn’t go anywhere. I thought we were kind of stuck. Luckily we had the 22 (Logano) with us. I kind of helped him and them he kind of helped me.”
“On the last lap we got a big run into (turn) one and they kind of all separated. We got a big pull off of that and then we got to second behind the 41 (Busch) and somehow our run kept us going the whole way. I laid back to (Allmendinger) and I was like, ‘We might get a good run!’ but then I was sputtering and running out of gas the whole back straightaway and I’m sure everyone else was too. … It’s not what we wanted, but a good start to the season nonetheless.”
A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola and Paul Menard rounded out the top five finishers, followed by 2015 winner Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip, Matt DiBenedetto and Trevor Bayne.
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