UPS Game-Changing Moments: Sprint Unlimited
February 18, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com
NINE-CAR INCIDENT TAKES OUT HALF THE FIELD
It wasn't the lesson Tony Stewart was counting on in his first race back from injury, but being involved in an a nine-car accident midway through Saturday's Sprint Unlimited proved he's well enough to withstand a hit.
Stewart's No. 14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet was among the cars collected in the melee on Lap 36 of the 75-lap non-points race that traditionally kicks off the season. His Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch were also involved and unable to continue as were Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who crashed into his girlfriend Patrick.
The Chevrolets driven by Stewart, Gordon and Busch were crushed domino style along the outside wall, but all the drivers were able to get out on their own, a key test for Stewart who hasn't driven a race car since severely breaking his right leg in a sprint car race last August.
JOHNSON OUT EARLY AFTER SLIDING OUT OF THE GROOVE
Jimmie Johnson opted against practicing in the draft for The Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway. He didn't get much more time Saturday night, but said he learned plenty in the pack after an early exit in Saturday night's season-opening exhibition.
Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet crashed at the end of the first of three segments, sliding out of the groove at the exit of Turn 4 and careening into the inside retaining wall after just 28 of 75 laps. But the six-time and defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion banked plenty of insight that should help him for the rest of Speedweeks.
KYLE BUSCH MAKES AMAZING SAVE
It was, for the most part, a typical Kyle Busch performance. The only things missing were the celebratory bow, the trip to victory lane and the trophy.
Busch didn't win. But not for a lack of trying.
In what has become somewhat commonplace, Busch ran strong, made another stunning save when his car broke loose near the front of the pack, and then rallied for a third-place finish in Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
“I really don’t know how it all started,” Busch said of his save, which came during the third and final segment of the 75-lap non-points event. “I was up top following (Joey) Logano, or he was coming up in front of me. I kind of tried to go back low and get a run off the bottom of the track to pass him and I got clipped and instantly spun out.”
Once his car broke sideways, it was a “lot of brake, lot of gas, downshifting, everything in between,” he said.
NASCAR.com's Zack Albert, Kenny Bruce and Holly Cain contributed to this report.