Long: Daytona again proves cruel to Kyle Busch
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Each year Daytona International Speedway seems to find a new way to torment Kyle Busch.
The two-time Cup champion and future Hall of Famer has led the most laps in this race and lost. He’s finished 138-thousandths of a second behind the winner. He’s placed 30th or worse as many times as he’s finished in the top 10 in the Daytona 500.
But Sunday might have been the most cruel fate for Busch.
Two days after Brad Keselowski — also winless in this event — noted that the Daytona 500 seems to choose its winners, this 2.5-mile speedway appeared as if it was about to acquiesce and allow Busch to enter Victory Lane in his 18th attempt to win the Great American Race
“I think this was the first time that I led Lap 200,” Busch said, noting the final scheduled lap in the 500-mile race. “I wish it was 1998 rules.”
If it had been, the symmetry would have been perfect for Busch, in his first season with Richard Childress Racing.
Twenty-five years ago, Dale Earnhardt, driving for RCR, crossed the finish line under the caution and checkered flags for his only Daytona 500 victory. There was no overtime rule at that time. The race went no longer than 500 miles. Earnhardt got to celebrate in his 20th start in this event.
Sunday’s race, extended by two overtimes, went 12 extra laps, making it the most laps ever run in the 65 runnings of this race.It proved to be too many laps for Busch, whose was involved in a multi-car crash on the last lap.
“It’s just par for the course,” Busch said after exiting the infield care center for the second time this week. “Used to it. Come down here every year to just find out when and where I’m going to crash and what lap I’m going to come out of the care center.”
He nodded. What else was there to say?
Busch took the lead with four laps to go, getting a push from teammate Austin Dillon to go outside RFK Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher.
With less than three laps to go, Daniel Suarez — whose bump turned Busch in Thursday’s qualifying race that forced Busch to a backup car for the 500 — was hit and spun. That brought out the caution and sent the race to overtime.
Busch and his team debated where they should restart. A new rule this season allows drivers to choose their restart position at speedway races at Daytona, Talladega and Atlanta.
Busch and his team debated which lane to take and where it would be best for teammate Austin Dillon to align. Busch decided it was best to take the high line and Dillon take the best, so Busch could drop down in front of his teammate.
That’s what happened.
Then trouble ensued off Turn 2.
“I was hoping to have a teammate restart where I could get down on the bottom and … we could get locked up, and (William Byron) and (Busch) and (Dillon) would all work together and push and go,” Busch said.
“It looked like it was kind of working, but we got too much separation off of (Turn) 2, and I tried to back up to get to them. When they hit, it got me real squirrelly and Austin checked up and the accordion happens and everybody gets running over everybody.”
That led to a caution and Busch was out of the lead and without his teammate. He restarted on the outside of the third row for the final restart but was collected in the last-lap crash and finished 19th.
As he talked to reporters after the race, Busch said: “Who won? I don’t even know who lucked into it?”
Told that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had become the 42nd different winner of the Daytona 500, Busch said: “There you have it.”