Kurt Busch wins his first Budweiser Shootout
Sometimes it’s not who wins the race, but how they win the race that counts.
Never was that more true than in the final lap of Saturday night’s the 33rd running of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway, as Denny Hamlin made it to the checkered flag first, only to see Kurt Busch go to victory lane.
Coming to the checkered flag in a four-car pack behind race leader Ryan Newman, Hamlin dived to the inside coming into the tri-oval and got past Newman to cross the finish line first, but went below the yellow line making the pass attempt and was disqualified.
McMurray was credited with second, followed by Newman. Jimmie Johnson was a distant fourth followed by Greg Biffle.
It will go down in the books as the first career Daytona victory for Busch – in fact, his first restrictor-plate win ever – and the second for Penske Racing since going to victory lane with Newman in the 2008 Daytona 500.
“What an amazing win,” said Busch. “I have to thank my “teammate” Jamie McMurray so much. He was the man tonight. He stayed with us. He stayed true. I can’t thank him enough for doing that tonight. He had an unbelievable amount of power to push us and kept us in the mix. When you have a friend like that, that’s what it takes.”
“I knew (Hamlin) was going to split away from (Newman). I was hoping he would do it soon enough. It worked out in our favor at the end because McMurray stayed with us.
Saturday’s victory marked the start of a new era for Busch and his Penske team, giving up the famous “Blue Deuce” to teammate Brad Keselowski and moving to the newly numbered 22 Dodge with sponsorship from Shell/Pennzoil.
It turned out to be a fortuitous move for Shell/Pennzoil, as they won their third straight Shootout after going to victory lane the last two previous years as sponsor of Kevin Harvick’s car.
Saturday’s race was the first opportunity for the Sprint Cup teams to test the newly paved surface of the famed 2.5-mile oval in race conditions.
Instead, most of the racing actions was “pick-your-partner” as cars joined together in clumps of two-car packs that moved back and forth through the field, helping to set a record 28 lead changes.
“The racing is a lot different,” said McMurray. “I hope it was exciting to watch because it’s so much different than what we had before.”
The racing might have been different, but the old multi-car crash was still the same.
On lap 29, Regan Smith, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. got together fighting for the same piece of real estate, touching off a six-car crash that also took out Juan Pablo Montoya, Joey Logano and Kevin Conway.
With his dance partner out of the race, McMurray looked to hitch his wagon to another car and hooked up with Busch, pushing the two of them behind the lead duo.
“Once Juan (Montoya) got wrecked you know I came on the radio and I told Lauren my spotter, I said listen Matt Kenseth or Kurt Busch will be the next two most loyal guys out here to me,” said McMurray. “So it just worked out that I got behind Kurt and I don't think he had a very fast car but we put ourselves in the right position right there at the end to win it for him so I'm really happy for him."
“I think you saw there that third place is kind of the place to be. You know that the guy in second is going to make the move to win. You just have to hope that the guy in fourth will stay on the guy in third. It worked out well.”
For Newman, who went from first to third in a matter of ten seconds, if Saturday night’s race proved anything, it’s that the lead is not the place to be on the final lap.
“I knew I was a sitting duck,” said Newman. “ I didn't know what to expect other than the fact that I knew it was going to happen off of (turn) four. I didn't know if (Hamlin) was going to go high or low and I didn't know if I was going the right way, pointed in the right direction that (Busch) and (McMurray) were going to go. It's a unique race and I'm glad we got back to the finish line in the way we did.”
Hamlin was relegated to a 12th-place finish after the illegal pass, but accepted NASCAR’s ruling and admitted he probably shouldn’t have made the pass.
“I went to the inside of Ryan Newman and I saw quickly to dart down to the bottom so I moved my car down to the bottom to try to avoid contact,” said Hamlin. “I thought it was a great three-wide finish, but obviously I used some pavement that we shouldn’t have.
“That yellow line is there to protect us and the fans in the stands safety and I just chose to take the safer route. A win in the Shootout is not worth sending the 39 (Ryan Newman) through the grandstands. As fast as we’re running -- if I get into his left rear, that car will go airborne. For me, it was a tough position. I probably should have gone high just to avoid that whole thing. I was faced with a decision and obviously I didn’t want to have contact with the 39.”
Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Go to our forums to discuss this article