Kyle Busch scored a dramatic preseason victory Tuesday night in the Busch Clash, avoiding a crash between front-runners Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott, to kick off the NASCAR Cup Series season with the annual exhibition held for the first time on the Daytona International Speedway road course.
Busch led only the last of 35 laps in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, winning the Clash for the second time. The exhibition race marked the first victory with new crew chief Ben Beshore.
Defending Cup Series champion Elliott placed second, driving away from contact with Blaney in the final chicane. Joey Logano finished third with Tyler Reddick and William Byron rounding out the top five in order.
“I kinda felt like there was an interesting opportunity that was developing there,” Busch said of the Blaney-Elliott situation. “When that started happening I was hoping they would wreck long enough I could get up there and get by them and win the thing. It’s never over until it’s over in these kind of things.”
Elliott had dropped to the rear for the start because of unapproved adjustments to his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He prevailed in the series’ only other appearance on the 3.61-mile Daytona circuit, winning a points-paying race at the track last August as part of his current four-win streak on road courses.
Elliott was strong again, leading four laps and hounding Blaney for the victory during the final circuit. But the two cars made contact, and Blaney took the worst of the damage in the outside retaining wall.
The race was not segmented into stages, but a competition caution after the 15th lap split the race into two portions. Kevin Harvick spun twice in that opening part, first looping his No. 4 Ford in the bus-stop chicane after a measure of dirt had been kicked up on the racing surface. His second off-course excursion came after a jumbled restart, complicated by Blaney’s attempt to rejoin the racing line after overshooting Turn 1.
Martin Truex Jr. led on two occasions but found trouble each time, shortly after going to the front. He was the leader at the competition-caution break, but he skipped the track’s final chicane during the caution period while looking for the pace car to pick up the field. His No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota restarted the race at the rear of the pack after the penalty. “I don’t know why I did that,” Truex said. “Terrible job, sorry.”
He was apologetic again after crashing into the outside retaining wall, spinning while exiting the other chicane and sustaining heavy damage. He finished 20th in the 21-car field.
All previous 42 editions of the non-points event had been run on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval.
NOTE: The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch passed post-race technical inspection Tuesday after winning the NASCAR Cup Series’ Busch Clash at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course. The No. 2 Team Penske Ford of Brad Keselowski, who finished 17th, had one lug nut not safe and secure.
Contributing: NASCAR Wire Service