Kurt Busch Comes Close to Second Straight Daytona 500 Win

Daytona 500 Results | Standings | Photos

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – No driver has won back-to-back Daytona 500s since Sterling Marlin accomplished the feat in 1994-1995, but Kurt Busch was close enough to taste it on Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.

After a restart on Lap 194 of a scheduled 200, Busch bulled his way into the lead, thanks in part to a shove from Aric Almirola.

“I was feeling the magic,” acknowledged Busch, who held the top spot on laps 195 and 196.

But Ryan Blaney surged back into the lead on Lap 197, only to surrender it to Denny Hamlin on Lap 198. Busch had a run on Hamlin in Turns 1 and 2, but Hamlin moved up the track to block, breaking the momentum of Busch’s No. 41 Ford.

Running behind Busch, Blaney couldn’t check up quickly enough, and contact between his car and Busch’s turned Busch into the wall, igniting a 13-car wreck that eliminated the No. 41 and left Busch wistful about what might have been.

“I thought we could do it again back-to-back and win the Daytona 500,” Busch said. “We found the right drafting lanes, and I was making good moves. I just got caught in a Bermuda Triangle, it seemed like, when Hamlin blocked us. I hit him pretty hard and that killed a lot of my momentum.

“Maybe I should have just flung the 11 (Hamlin), but you have to treat guys with respect, and you’ve also got to throw your elbows out and you have to hold the hits when you get hit. We were close to going back-to-back in the Daytona 500, but I don’t have anything to show for it.”

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Daytona Yields Strong Showing Amid Tough Luck for Blaney

Daytona 500 Results | Standings | Photos

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Leading a race-high 118 laps, Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 Team Penske Ford seemed like the one to beat throughout Sundays season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

But the nature of Daytona dictates that nothing is guaranteed — that’s what Blaney found out Sunday. As the checkered flag flew and race winner Austin Dillon celebrated on the front stretch, Blaney debriefed with crew chief Jeremy Bullins on pit road following a seventh-place finish, getting fist bumps from crew members and No. 21 driver Paul Menard.

He may not have won, but he sure put on a show.

“You can have the best car in the world and not win the race,” Blaney said. “I thought we had a good car today but you just try to figure out what you can do better for next time and its a shame it didnt work out for us, but you try to live and learn and live and move on.

“Yeah, you’re disappointed, you dominate a good race, but that’s the way it goes.”

Blaney’s No. 12 made contact with Kurt Busch’s No. 41 Ford at Lap 198, triggering a multi-car pileup that collected 10 additional cars. Blaneys No. 12 sustained damage and was forced to pit for repairs.

“It was just hard racing,” he said. “You say it all day. I was trying to be aggressive blocking the lead and kind of fell back and got a good run back up towards it. Man, the 11 blocked the 41 and the 41 kind of went high last minute and I was on his left rear and I turned him. I feel bad about that. He kinda changed lanes last minute and I couldn’t react quick enough. It stinks. We led a lot of laps.

“It just wasnt meant to be.”

Showing speed throughout the entire weekend, the 24-year-old also won the first Can-Am Duel on Thursday night. Sunday, he paced the field five times after starting from the third position and won Stage 2, gathering valuable points. The showing was enough to crown Blaney the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader heading into the rest of the 2018 season.

Apart from the finish, their day was something to be pleased about, Bullins said.

“To be honest with you, it’s absolutely the day we wanted,” he told “We were able to win a stage and get a lot of points, led a lot of laps and felt like we were in a really

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Daytona Rear-View Mirror

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – “The Great American Race” turned into “Last Man Standing” and Austin Dillon was that man.

A frantic, thrilling, exciting, maddening and intriguing afternoon ended in a wild finish with Dillon taking the Richard Childress Racing Iconic No. 3 back to Daytona’s Victory Lane 20 years after Dale Earnhardt scored his first and only 500 win.

This year’s Speedweeks had a common thread – the unknown. It started last week in qualifying and the Advance Auto Parts Clash, carried through the Can-Am Duel races, permeated both the Truck Series and Xfinity Series races and finally came to a crescendo in the Daytona 500. Drivers wrestled their cars throughout the 500-plus miles and aggressive blocking by some proved to be their downfall along with some innocent bystanders.

It came down to the nuts and bolts of finishing the race and just like the rest of the week, the outcome wasn’t known until the last possible moment. That turned out to be the unlikely sight to many of Dillon celebrating his win by replicating Earnhardt’s 1998 slide through the infield grass.

There will surely be much debate in the days to come about what transpired on Sunday. Arguments can be made on many sides but one thing is certain, for a variety of reasons the 60th running of the Daytona 500 was memorable.

The seven-car accident that ended the first stage wiped out the hopes of several top drivers including Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones. It generated much discussion about the advent of stage racing and its impact on the competition. On the one had there’s the school of thought drivers have much more incentive to race hard at intervals of the race with stage points on the line. The other side of the pendulum is whether the big picture, especially in a race the magnitude of the Daytona 500, outweighs the benefit of racing for stage points. It’s going to be interesting all season long to see how year two of stage racing evolves. Danica Patrick’s NASCAR career came to a bitter end when she was involved in a huge accident during the second stage. Patrick had nowhere to go when Brad Keselowski made contact with Chase Elliott to trigger the violent crash. She’ll have one more chance to race later this year in the Indianapolis 500 but her NASCAR legacy will be remembered as one of great anticipation but disappointing performance and results. There&rsquo

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Heartbreak for Almirola

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Aric Almirola was a half a lap away from winning the Daytona 500 until an accident took him out of the race.

Almirola had the top spot in Sunday’s overtime finish as the field roared into the third turn on the final lap. But contact from Austin Dillon as the pack was racing for position sent Almirola into the wall and ended the day in his first start for Stewart-Haas Racing.

“It’s the biggest race of the year and it’s a career-changing race, so we were just racing really aggressively,” Almirola said. “I put every move I knew to try and stay in the lead and, unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to hold on. He got to my back bumper and was pushing and just hooked me. My heart is broken, but the beauty is we’ll go to Atlanta and we’ve got an incredible race team here at Stewart-Haas Racing and we’ll have another shot next week.”

While the contact from Dillon sent Almirola into the wall and out of the race. He did not feel the aggressiveness was over the line.

“He’s not driving too aggressively, he’s trying to win the Daytona 500 just like I was,” Almirola said. “I saw him come with the momentum and I pulled up to block and did exactly what I needed to do to try to win the Daytona 500. I wasn’t gonna just let him have it. I wasn’t gonna just stay on the bottom and let him rail the outside, so I blocked and he got to my bumper and pushed and I thought I was still gonna be OK and somehow I got hooked.

“If that was lap five, I probably wouldn’t have pulled that block, but it was the last lap of the Daytona 500 and I was doing everything I could to try and win. I wanted to win the Daytona 500.”

Almirola wound up finishing 11th.

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Wallace Jr Finishes Second at Daytona

In his first Daytona 500 start, Darrell Wallace Jr. scored a runner-up finish in a NASCAR Overtime finish as he helped push Austin Dillon to victory in the 2018 Daytona 500.

“I got so many emotions going right now,” Wallace said after the race.

Wallace and Denny Hamlin made sustained contact coming to the checkered flag as they battled for the runner-up position.

Wallace is in his rookie season driving the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet.

The 24-year-old was making just his fifth start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and is the subject of a Facebook Watch documentary series that profiles his preparation for the Daytona 500.

RELATED: Watch the series: ‘Behind The Wall: Bubba Wallace’

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Tough Ending for Danica Patrick

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danica Patrick’s NASCAR career ended with a 35th-place finish after she was involved in a crash during Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Patrick made her final NASCAR start Sunday driving a Premium Motorsports entry with crew chief Tony Eury Jr. calling the shots on her GoDaddy sponsored car. Eury was Patrick’s first crew chief when she came to NASCAR at JR Motorsports in 2010.

Unfortunately there was no Cinderella ending to her story as Patrick was caught in a lap 102 accident on Sunday and eliminated from the race.

“The car was a lot better than it was in the Duel; a lot better than in practice. Tony Eury Jr., my crew chief, did an awesome job. The guys, the whole team, did a really good job,” Patrick said.

“I know we pulled this together not that long ago, a month ago, that’s a tall order to get a car ready for a superspeedway that’s competitive. But it was. I said earlier today that I feel like the whole thing was picture perfect with GoDaddy on the car and it being that green again.”

Patrick made 191 career Cup starts and although she’ll compete in the Indianapolis 500, she walks away from NASCAR disappointed.

“I’m just sad that it ended that way,” she said.

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