Kyle Busch leads Tony Stewart to the checkers - NASCAR photoEnlarge Photo
Is this the way Speedweeks are going to be at Daytona International Speedway?
Cars flying through the air, getting turned with a nudge to the left rear, "big ones" every few laps?
It sure looked that way during the Budweiser Shootout tonight, won by Kyle Busch by a hair over Tony Stewart, 0.13 seconds to be exact.
It was Toyota's first win in the Bud Shootout, Busch's first and an amazing display of driving talent by a driver who got spun out nearly the entire race! And it was the closest finish in the 34-year history of the Shootout.
There were only 13 of the 25 entered racers still competing after four multi-car crashes forced the first green-white-checkered of the year, extending the race seven laps beyond the scheduled 75.
The last-lap pass Busch put on Stewart was a classic one for the Cup cars. "I don't know how many times I spun out and didn't spin out," Busch crowed. "Glad to see the pack back like that and making it interesting for us drivers. Hoepfully it was great for the fans as much as it was for us."
Speaking of that pass: "I've seen this move done before and it was my turn to do it this time." On the last lap Busch restarted within the top 10 and "pulled down underneath Stewart and just let him kind of run the wave up through there and followed him up through" to make the pass at the checkered flag. "Awesome race," Busch proclaimed.
Stewart knew Busch was going to pull out, "But at least got us up there where we needed to be. It reminded me of when we were in the opposite positions coming down here. He did a good job; he did exactly what he needed to do," Stewart said. The reigning Sprint Cup champion said the race is "a lot more fun like this than the two-car stuff. You are still going to see it at the end of the race," he predicted
The first Ford driver to finish was Marcos Ambrose, making his first Shootout start pay off with a third-place result.
Brad Keselowski was fourth, Denny Hamlin took fifth and Greg Biffle finished sixth. Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Juan Montoya rounded out the top 10 with Jeff Burton, AJ Allmendinger and Kasey Kahne the only other drivers to see the checkered flags.
Jeff Gordon's crazy crash was the worst in the driver's 20-year career as he rode the driver's side door following a tap with the winner, then rolled over several times before landing on his roof. Gordon, a four-time Sprint Cup champion, climbed from his Chevy without apparent injury.
Many drivers lost the cars they'd expected to use as Daytona 500 backups. Those four cautions over the two segments--the first 25 laps and the second intended to go for 50 - resulted in a lot of wrecked cars.
With qualifying for the front row tomorrow, everyone should be using their Daytona 500 cars. But there's still an awful lot of busted up vehicles waiting for their fab shops at the DIS track to whip them back into shape.