DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kyle Busch was the primary victim of a multi-car crash in Thursday night’s second Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying race, losing control after a late-race push from Daniel Suárez.
Busch’s No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet veered into the outside retaining wall while leading on the Daytona International Speedway backstretch, ending his race with 40 of 60 laps complete after an errant push from Suárez’s No. 99 Chevrolet. Busch was unhurt but expressed his frustration after being relegated to a backup car for Sunday’s 65th running of the Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM).
“Just a lot of pushing and shoving. I don’t know why,” Busch said at the infield care center. “I mean we were single file. There was no pressure from the outside. There was nothing happening and was just getting pushed for two straight laps and finally, it didn’t want to hang on anymore. It overloaded the left rear and spun out the wrong way on the straightaway.”
Busch’s car nosed into the outside wall as oncoming traffic dodged his vehicles. Noah Gragson, Ryan Preece and Justin Haley dove to the grass to avoid the sliding Chevrolet, but that grassy debris found its way to Austin Hill’s tires, causing the No. 62 Chevrolet to spin.
Hill collided with Travis Pastrana and Riley Herbst, ending Hill’s Daytona 500 chances. Hill was piloting the Beard Motorsports non-chartered entry and failed to qualify for the “Great American Race.”
Busch was left bewildered the aggression reached that point midway through the second of two qualifying races on Thursday night.
“The inside lane with the 99 and the five behind me, they stopped pushing and they weren’t shoving and the outside still disintegrated,” Busch said. “And a couple guys tried to make the outside come forward, never came forward. And then for the last two laps there before I wrecked, they started pushing. I don’t see the sense and it really boggles me.”
The disappointment was bolstered by the fact Busch and his No. 8 team – a fresh pairing for the 2023 season – believed they could win the Daytona 500 with their primary car. Busch is a two-time Cup Series champion but has yet to win the Daytona 500 in 17 tries.
“Car was fine. It was good,” Busch said. “If there was any weak spot we had, it was just exit of the corners where guys could kind of bunch back up to me but that’s to be expected. That’s just the accordion.”
Pastrana, the action sports icon, is driving the No. 67 Toyota for 23XI Racing, another “open” entry, but sealed his spot in the Daytona 500 in Wednesday night’s single-car qualifying session. The 39-year-old noted Wednesday any cost for damages are coming directly out of his pocket this weekend but left the infield care center confident the damage his car suffered is fixable ahead of Sunday’s race without using a backup car.
“I didn’t hit much,” Pastrana said. “The rear was bent pretty good. So we’ll change a few parts out. Shouldn’t be too bad for the pocket and we’ll definitely be back out there but hopefully in the same car.”
Pastrana competed in the Xfinity Series in a full-time effort in 2013 but has never made a Cup Series start. More challenging is that the Next Gen vehicle hardly compares to any prior experience he gleaned in a stock car.
“We were just cruising around back just trying to avoid exactly what happened,” Pastrana said. “Thought we’re far enough back actually, and at 200 miles an hour, it’s hard to get whoa-ed up. So I learned a lot. I kept wanting to go for it and then start getting in the mix. They’re like, ‘just don’t mess up the car.’ I’m like, alright, we’ll just stay in the back. We’ll learn from those guys. See what works, see what doesn’t. …
“Good information going forward and I had a blast. It was super intense.”
Cup teams will have one 50-minute practice session on Friday at 5:35 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and additional 50 minutes Saturday at 10:30 a.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) to perfect their cars ahead of Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Contributing: Staff report