Kurt Busch led only one lap Sunday afternoon, but it was the only one that mattered, as he emerged from a wasteland of rubber, plastic and metal to win his first Daytona 500.
Busch was running in second place behind Kyle Larson when the white flag came out, but assumed the lead on the final lap when the No. 42 ran out of fuel. With Larson out of contention, Ryan Blaney, AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola and Paul Menard moved up the order to round out the top five.
It was a tale of two races at Daytona International Speedway. The first half of the 200-lap restrictor-plate extravaganza was relatively cordial, but the second half was a totally different story. When the dust settled, the Great American Race looked more like one of Last Thursday’s 20-driver Can-Am Duels, as nearly half of the race’s 40-driver field were forced to exit early.
But the day belonged to Busch. The 38-year-old Stewart-Haas Racing driver capitalized after Chase Elliott, who led for much of the third-and-final stage, ran out of gas with three laps remaining.
Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Danica Patrick were among the racers whose afternoons ended early, as much of the of the race’s second and third stages were run under caution.
While the win certainly must be sweet for Busch, who’s finished the Daytona 500 as a runner-up three times, it’s hard not to feel for Elliott, who appeared to be headed for his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race victory. Michael Waltrip, competing in his final NASCAR race, finished eighth in his 30th Daytona 500.
NASCAR heads to Altanta Motor Speedway next, for the Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 on March 5.
Thumbnail photo via Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports Images