DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Matt Kenseth pulled away from traffic on the final restart of Friday night’s Nationwide Series race, cruising to a comfortable win at Daytona International Speedway.
The race was on pace to be one of the fastest in Daytona history until a late accident brought out a red-flag stoppage that lasted nearly 10 minutes.
There were only two laps remaining when the race resumed and Kenseth paired up with defending Truck Series champion James Buescher on the restart. The two easily broke away from the pack, leaving everyone else racing for third place.
Kenseth and Buescher weren’t challenged to the finish, with Kenseth taking the win and Buescher finishing second.
It was a turn of events after the tandem of Sam Hornish Jr. and Joey Logano had dominated to lead 64 of the 101 laps.
“It didn’t matter who I was pushing or who was pushing me, we couldn’t run with those two,” Kenseth said of Logano and Hornish. “But with (Buescher) pushing me, we could. We had speed. So it was important to keep him with me. He did a really good job up getting us up to the lead and putting us in a position to try to win, so I wanted to make sure I stuck with him.
“He did a really, really good job pushing there.”
Buescher stayed put once on Kenseth’s bumper.
“We got together and went right to the front. I knew then I had to stay committed to him until the end of the race or as long as we could with the restarts,” Buescher said. “He was the first car all weekend we’ve been able to push for a long period of time.”
Third went to Elliott Sadler, who picked up a $100,000 bonus from series sponsor Nationwide as the highest finishing driver in the “Dash 4 Cash” program. The cooling box in Sadler’s car broke right before the race, forcing him to finish on a steamy summer night with no air conditioning.
“It’s hot, but that’s what we train for. That’s what we get ready for,” said Sadler, who admitted to feeling nauseous while sitting in the car during the red flag.
Kurt Busch finished fourth in a car designed with the beloved City Chevrolet paint scheme from the “Days of Thunder” movie. He and the Phoenix Racing crew spent much of the race in character with Busch as Cole Trickle reciting Tom Cruise’s movie lines.
“It was a great race, a lot of fun focusing on strategy, drafting partners and then switching over to the movie quotes and having fun,” Busch said. “It was a shame we didn’t get into Victory Lane. I wanted to have a foot race … all the way down pit road to Victory Lane.”
The race was moving on at a rapid pace with just three cautions in the first 90 laps — one was for debris, one was for fluid on the track and one was for Mike Wallace’s stalled car. The Wallace caution set up a restart with seven laps to go, but racing halted when Travis Pastrana seemed to cut down on Cole Whitt, causing Whitt to turn Pastrana and trigger a multi-car accident. Caught in it was Jason White, who dropped to the grass after climbing from his crumpled car.
White was tended to by emergency personnel in the grass, then walked to a waiting ambulance on his own.
“Kind of took the breath out of me a little bit. It was a hard hit,” he said. “I’m feeling fine. Just got to get a little rest, I’ll be fine tomorrow.”