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Buescher wins in crash-filled finish Nationwide race

by Pete McCole
Saturday, February 25, 2012

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James Buescher

James Buescher survived a wild last lap as the race leaders crashed in the final turn to emerge as the surprise winner and collect his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series victory Saturday’s season-opening Drive4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

Buescher came through as the last man standing following an 11-car wreck in the final turn, tiptoeing through the carnage and dodging the slowed car of Brad Keselowski to lead the final 100 yards and take the checkered flag in his 35th Nationwide Series start.

“It’s hard to put into words,” said Buescher. “They all piled up in front of me and we made it through. It’s hard to describe the feeling when you make it through the wreck and you’re the only guy – you don’t see anyone in front of you and you’re coming to the checkered flag. It’s pretty incredible and I’ll definitely never forget it.

“I can’t think of another race track that I would rather this (win) be at. Daytona is historical – everybody knows that – and every driver dreams of winning here. My goal as a young driver was to be able to race at Daytona in NASCAR and I’ve done that several times, but now I’ve finally won here. I don’t know how to put it into words.”

Elliott Sadler held on to limp his Richard Childress Racing-owned Chevrolet to a second place finish, followed by Keselowski, Cole Whitt and Austin Dillon

Much like Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, Saturday’s event was a crash-filled mess of an event that saw eight cautions

The final carnage started with three laps remaining as three separate tandems pulled away from the field to battle it out, with brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch leading, followed by the duo of Joey Logano and Trevor Bayne and the tandem of Tony Stewart and Elliott Sadler.

The Busch brothers stepped out ahead by nearly five-car lengths as they came to the white flag, but Logano and Bayne reeled them in on the backstretch as the Busch brothers tried to throw a block.

Stewart and Sadler took advantage and tried to come along the outside to make it three wide, but Logano and Bayne came drifting up to the high side of the track to pinch off Stewart and Sadler. Bayne got into Stewart, bounced off and into Kurt Busch, who turned into Logano – and the wreck was on.

Kyle Busch managed to get to the low side of the track but was force to check up and was nailed from behind by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Cole Whitt.

Leaders Crash
“I don’t know where to start,” said Kyle Busch, who was credited with an 18th-place finish. “I thought we had the race won and then those guys were coming on the top and I’m like, ‘Alright, let’s see where we settle in here.’  I thought when they all crashed up high that I was clear. I shot low - as low as I could and then somebody tagged me in the back and just hooked me dead right. I swore when they all went up high -- I was the leader for a second and I was like, ‘I won this thing, it’s over - I can see the checkered flag.’  Then within a split second of that I was in the fence and wrecked.” 

When the dust cleared, the first 11 cars in the running order were smoking heaps, with some able to limp to the finish line.

Stewart, who was looking for his fifth-straight victory in the season-opening event, ended up with an eighth-place finish despite leading five times for 22 laps.

“The hole that we had all of a sudden not only closed up, it shut – pretty quickly. It got slammed on us. We just ran out of real estate,” said Stewart. “I don’t know how they got there or why they got there, but it was a pretty abrupt right-hand turn in front of us. Just all of a sudden the door got slammed on us. I don’t know why whoever it was turned right, but it wasn’t a very good time to either try blocking or moving.”

The Nationwide Series race was seen as a preview of Sunday’s Daytona 500, where the Sprint Cup teams will be running under a new aerodynamics and engine package NASCAR hoped would eliminate the two-car tandem drafting that dominated last season’s four restrictor-plate races.

Saturday’s race was a mix of two-wide drafting and the more familiar multi-car pack racing, but problems with bump drafting were evident right from the start.

One of the earliest casualties in the vent was polesitter and Daytona media sensation Danica Patrick, who got turned off the bumper of her teammate Cole Whitt on 50.

The first big multi-car crash reared it’s head on lap 105, as the front of the field checked up, causing Justin Allgaier and Kenny Wallace to get together and touch off a 19-car crash that brought out the red flag and set up another restart with eight laps to go.

But cautions breed cautions as they say, and just three laps later Sam Hornish Jr. got turned by David Ragan coming out of turn four, triggering another meat grinder that collected 14 more cars and brought the field back around for the final three-lap shootout.

In all, 18 of the 43 cars failed to finish the event, a potentially troubling omen on things to come in the Daytona 500.

“I think (the Daytona 500) is going to be the same,” said Sadler. “Tomorrow we have less spoiler.  Tomorrow, the way the engines are not cooling as well with the radiator, stuff is different, there's going to be a lot more change, a lot more pack racing.  I think you're going to see a lot of the same thing.  It's the Daytona 500.  It's a once-in-a-lifetime race to be involved in and try to win.  I think guys are going to go for it when it's show time.”

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 15 30 James Buescher Chevrolet Fraternal Order of Eagles 0 120 Running
2 3 2 Elliott Sadler Chevrolet OneMain Financial 43/1 120 Running
3 9 22 Brad Keselowski Dodge Discount Tire 0 120 Running
4 5 3 Austin Dillon * Chevrolet AdvoCare 0 120 Running
5 25 19 Tayler Malsam Toyota G-Oil 0 120 Running
6 29 15 Timmy Hill Ford Poynt.com 39/1 120 Running
7 8 88 Cole Whitt * Chevrolet Hellmann's 0 120 Running
8 7 33 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Oreo / Ritz 0 120 Running
9 11 38 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Great Clips 0 120 Running
10 14 1 Kurt Busch Chevrolet HendrickCars.com 0 120 Running
11 2 60 Trevor Bayne Ford Roush Fenway Racing 25th Anniversary 34/1 120 Running
12 33 124 Benny Gordon Toyota Kentucky Antler Company / VFI 32/0 120 Running
13 41 4 Danny Efland Chevrolet Danny Efland Racing 31/0 120 Running
14 37 40 Josh Wise Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 30/0 120 Running
15 4 5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet TaxSlayer.com 0 120 Running
16 22 20 Joey Logano Toyota GameStop 0 120 Running
17 31 41 Blake Koch Ford Rise Up and Register 27/0 120 Running
18 24 54 Kyle Busch Toyota Monster Energy 0 120 Running
19 10 6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford Kellogg's Pop-Tarts 25/0 120 Running
20 6 12 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Alliance Truck Parts 25/1 120 Running
21 21 70 Johanna Long* Chevrolet Foretravel Motorcoach 0 120 Running
22 20 14 Eric McClure Toyota Hefty / Reynolds Wrap 22/0 118 Running
23 27 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota DAB Constructors 22/1 116 In Pit
24 39 50 T.J. Bell Ford Eastbound & Down 0 115 In Pit
25 36 51 Jeremy Clements Chevrolet Curry Roofing 19/0 115 Running
26 23 27 David Ragan Ford CertainTeed / Mercury 0 113 In Pit
27 16 43 Michael Annett Ford Pilot Flying J 17/0 113 In Pit
28 28 01 Mike Wallace Chevrolet G&K Services 16/0 112 Running
29 35 39 Joey Gase * Ford Go Green Racing / JoeyGase.com 0 108 Running
30 26 09 Kenny Wallace Toyota Family Farmers 15/1 104 In Pit
31 18 136 Ryan Truex Chevrolet Grime Boss 13/0 104 In Pit
32 17 18 Denny Hamlin Toyota Z-Line Designs 0 103 Running
33 12 31 Justin Allgaier Chevrolet Brandt 11/0 103 Running
34 42 52 Reed Sorenson Chevrolet Means Racing 10/0 103 Running
35 34 23 Robert Richardson Jr. Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 10/1 103 Running
36 32 108 Casey Roderick * Ford Randy Hill Racing 8/0 103 In Pit
37 19 11 Brian Scott Toyota Dollar General 7/0 96 Running
38 1 7 Danica Patrick Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 7/1 72 Running
39 13 44 Mike Bliss Toyota TriStar Motorsports 6/1 59 Running
40 38 28 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Robinson-Blakeney Racing 0 43 Out of Race
41 40 81 Jason Bowles * Dodge PledgeToVote.com 3/0 28 Out of Race
42 30 97 Johnny Sauter Toyota AMFMEnergy.com / Pellet & Wood Stoves 0 14 Out of Race
43 43 10 Jeff Green Toyota TriStar Motorsports 1/0 3 In Pit

* Denotes Rookie

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