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Busch's last-gasp pass earns Shootout victory

February 23, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kyle Busch rallied from two near-disasters to win Saturday's Budweiser Shootout with a slingshot move past Tony Stewart a few yards from the finish line at Daytona International Speedway.

Starting from the back of the field in a backup car -- necessitated by a wreck in Friday's practice -- Busch won the season-opening exhibition race for the first time. His winning margin over Stewart was .013 seconds, the closest in Shootout history, in a green-white-checkered finish that took the race seven laps beyond its scheduled distance.

Marcos Ambrose recovered from a pair of wrecks to finish third, followed by Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin. Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Juan Montoya completed the top 10.

Busch's victory was the first in a NASCAR race car using electronic fuel injection, which was introduced to the Sprint Cup Series this season.

Stewart had just taken the lead on Lap 74 of a scheduled 75 when a violent wreck in Turn 4 sent Jeff Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet barrel-rolling through Turn 4 and sliding on its roof toward the entrance to pit road.

Gordon was following Kyle Busch on the backstretch, and contact between the cars turned Busch's Toyota onto the apron. Busch made a dramatic save for the second time in the race, but Gordon slid up the track into the Chevrolets of Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray.

As all three cars contacted the outside wall, Jimmie Johnson's Chevrolet nosed beneath the right rear bumper of Gordon's car and turned it upside down. The wreck left 11 cars on the lead lap and sent the race to overtime.

"With Gordon behind me, I don't know what the deal was there -- I'd like to talk to him about it," Busch said. "When we came off [Turn] 2, he had me sideways, and then all the way down the backstretch, I was still sideways -- left, right, left, right, everywhere -- then we were off into 3 and he turned me sideways again. He was on the left side of my bumper instead of the right."

The first of the close calls for Busch, on Lap 48, strung the field out, leaving a 10-car pack fighting for the lead. Busch's Toyota twice turned sideways off the bumper of Johnson, and twice Busch saved the car from calamity despite running onto the apron in Turn 2.

"Stab and steer, stab and steer," Busch said of the technique that bailed him out of trouble. "That's what you do. And some brakes. There are brakes involved, too. I thought I was clear ... and I tried going down slowly, and Jimmie just must have been there a little bit, turned me sideways and got me on the apron -- scared everybody half to death, including me."

The complexion of the race changed dramatically on Lap 55, when a chain-reaction wreck that started with contact between the cars of polesitter Martin Truex Jr., Ambrose and Joey Logano clobbered those three vehicles and eliminated Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth.

The resulting fourth caution of the race bunched the field for a restart on Lap 62, with Biffle in the lead, followed by Hendrick Motorsports teammates Gordon and Johnson and reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Stewart.

Rule changes NASCAR instituted during the offseason changed the character of racing at Daytona. Though Busch and Stewart hooked up for the final two-lap dash, drivers spent the vast majority of the race drafting in packs. To Stewart, it was a significant improvement.

"I had fun racing at Daytona again, which I haven't had for a while," Stewart said. "This is better than having to sit there and stare at the back of a spoiler for 500 miles."

The race was barely eight laps old when contact from David Ragan's Ford turned Paul Menard's Chevrolet and ignited a multicar wreck that also damaged the cars of Kasey Kahne, Hamlin, Kenseth, Montoya, Michael Waltrip, Jeff Burton and Gordon.

Earnhardt, who had led the first three laps, had just regained the top spot on Lap 8 and was out in front when the wreck erupted behind him. The crash sidelined Menard, Ragan and Waltrip and knocked Hamlin and Kahne off the lead lap. Burton also fell of the lead lap during the first 25-lap segment when he pitted under green with a cut tire.

"Everybody was real racy and I just got into the back of Menard," Ragan said after exiting his car. "You get a good run, and you're pushing a little bit, and I guess he was pushing whoever was in front of him. And when you've got the meat in between the sandwich, you usually get wrecked."

McMurray was at the front of the field when NASCAR called the competition caution after Lap 25. Gordon, undeterred by minor damage to his car, was second, followed by Harvick, Kyle Busch and Ambrose.