If you were looking for a shootout, then you certainly got one tonight in Daytona Beach. The Budweiser Shootout, the traditional exhibition to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, was certainly one for the history books, as Kyle Busch (#18 M&M’s Toyota) came from the back of the field to the front not once, not twice, but three times, edging out defending Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart (Mobil 1 Chevy) by one one-hundredth of a second.
The Budweiser Shootout is traditionally divided into two segments, an opening 25 lap section, followed by a 50 lap shootout. A ten minute break separates the two segments of the race. The lineup is set by a blind draw, won by Martin Truex Jr. (#56 NAPA Toyota).
A number of new factors heading into the 2012 season were set to be on display in the Saturday night race. First off, it would be the first race with NASCAR’s new electronic fuel injection system, causing questions about fuel mileage and efficiency heading into the race. Also, NASCAR’s new rules in an attempt to prevent tandem racing would come into play, with direct communication between drivers banned, and new cooling setups causing the cars to overheat more quickly in place. This, coupled with a long offseason of driver, team, and crew changes would lead to one of the most eventful races in recent memory.
With the green flag out, Truex Jr. was in a dogfight with Jamie McMurray (#1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy) for the lead, only to relinquish it to the fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. (#88 National Guard Chevy), much to the delight of all the fans. However, the green flag racing would become heated very quickly, and the first caution flew at lap 10 when a bump draft went wrong between David Ragan (#34 MHP Ford) and Paul Menard (#27 Peak Chevy). Ragan bumped Menard into turn two, just right of center, causing Menard to go sideways, collecting Ragan, and sliding up into Michael Waltrip (#55 Aaron’s Toyota), and collecting further Juan Pablo Montoya (#42 Target Chevy) and Matt Kenseth (#17 Best Buy Ford).
On the ensuing restart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. still held the lead, followed by Kevin Harvick (#29 Budweiser Chevy) and Martin Truex Jr. Happy Harvick had climbed from 22nd to 2nd in just over ten laps, and was looking strong early on in the night. Drivers continued to jockey for position up until the lap 25 break, with Jamie McMurray leading at the break.
After a ten minute respite, the cars were ready to go for a 50 lap shootout. McMurray would lead the field back to green, with Jeff Gordon (#24 Drive to End Hunger Chevy) running in second. It would not take long before another caution would fly. On lap 31, Truex gave new teammate Clint Bowyer (#15 5-Hour Energy Toyota) too strong of a shove, sending him spinning into the turn one infield.
On the following restart, Junior retook the lead, with Greg Biffle (#16 3M Ford) pushing him. Harvick, Junior, and McMurray by now were the class of the field. But on lap 48, Kyle Busch made an amazing save, after getting loose in turn 2, slamming on and off the apron, tearing up the front valence.
It would be until lap 54 before more drama would ensue. Going through turns one and two, Joey Logano (#20 Home Depot Toyota) got a shove from Marcos Ambrose (#9 Stanley/DeWalt Ford), sending Logano sideways. Logano then slides into Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., and Matt Kenseth. Harvick’s impact was the most scary, with a fire erupting from the back of his car, which was eventually put out before Harvick rolled into the garage.
With the field continuing to shrink, Greg Biffle and Jeff Gordon led the field back to green, having stayed out under caution. Now, the race for the lead was really on as the field closed in on ten laps to go. Gordon, Biffle, Stewart, and Kyle Busch all battled for the lead, that is, until another huge wreck engulfs Daytona. Kyle Busch gets loose going through turn four with two laps to go, causing Jeff Gordon to slide high to avoid him. However, Gordon then slams into teammate Jimmie Johnson (#48 Lowe’s Chevy) and Kurt Busch (#51 Tag Heuer Chevy), causing a muti-car mess coming out of the turn. Also collected were AJ Allmendinger (#22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge) and Greg Biffle.
Another scary moment unfolded in this wreck, as Jeff Gordon’s car went up on its side upon impact with the wall and Kurt Busch’s car. His car slid for nearly one thousand yards, before rolling over and barrel rolling down the stretch towards the pit road entrance. Eventually, the car landed on its roof, and Gordon was able to climb from his car under his own power.
With the caution occurring with two laps to go, a green-white-checkered finish was on tap for the fans at Daytona. Tony Stewart led the field as they came down to the green flag to restart, with Marcos Ambrose in second, and Clint Bowyer in third. As the first lap back progressed, Stewart slid back, while Ambrose charged to the lead behind the push of Clint Bowyer. However, Stewart would come thundering back in turn four, with the assistance of the damaged car of Kyle Busch.
With one lap to go, the race was squarely between Stewart and Busch, with Busch continuing to push Stewart all the way through turn four. However, as the cars approached the finish, Busch hops out of line to challenge Stewart for the win. In the end, it would be Kyle Busch edging out Tony Stewart ever so slightly at the finish, a close one one-hundredth of a second separating the two.
Here is the rest of the finishers in the 2012 Budweiser Shootout:
1) 18 Kyle Busch
2) 14 Tony Stewart
3) 9 Marcos Ambrose
4) 2 Brad Keselowski
5) 11 Denny Hamlin
6) 16 Greg Biffle
7) 39 Ryan Newman
8 ) 15 Clint Bowyer
9) 99 Carl Edwards
10) 42 Juan Pablo Montoya
11) 31 Jeff Burton -1 Lap
12) 22 A.J. Allmendinger -2 Laps
13) 5 Kasey Kahne -3 Laps
14) 48 Jimmie Johnson DNF
15) 24 Jeff Gordon DNF
16) 1 Jamie McMurray DNF
17) 51 Kurt Busch DNF
18) 20 Joey Logano DNF
19) 56 Martin Truex Jr. DNF
20) 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. DNF
21) 17 Matt Kenseth DNF
22) 29 Kevin Harvick DNF
23) 27 Paul Menard DNF
24) 34 David Ragan DNF
25) 55 Michael Waltrip DNF
The next event in the Daytona Speedweeks for NASCAR is Daytona 500 qualifying tomorrow afternoon. Tomorrow’s qualifying will set the front row for the 500 mile race, as well as lock in four drivers in the go-or-go-home category. Coverage begins tomorrow at 1 pm on your local FOX station.