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February 19, 2023

Analysis: Strong Daytona 500 run doesn’t quell sting for Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch leads Austin Dillon, William Byron, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski in the 2023 Daytona 500
Mike Ehrmann
Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A new era for Kyle Busch began painfully familiar — wrecking out of the Daytona 500, still unable to check the only empty box on his tremendous list of crown-jewel wins.

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The two-time Cup Series champion has won about everything a driver could strive for in his 18 prior seasons — Darlington’s Southern 500, Charlotte’s Coca-Cola 600, the Brickyard 400 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Yet the win column sits goose-egged in the “Great American Race” after 18 tries, a streak that only continued in his first regular-season race with Richard Childress Racing.

From left, Kyle Busch, AJ Allmendinger and Denny Hamlin crash on the final lap of the 2023 Daytona 500
Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

The final overtime saw Rowdy take the white flag fifth, second in the outside lane giving a hard charge to the rear bumper of Joey Logano to charge to the lead in Turn 1. But Turn 2 saw the field fly apart. Before Busch could make a move to try and win the race, he was clipped in the left-rear quarter panel and sent spinning driver-side first into the outside SAFER barrier.

The No. 8 Chevrolet paced the field for six laps Sunday night — all of them when it seemed they would matter most. Busch led Laps 197-202 in a race that was scheduled to end at Lap 200. The 65th annual season opener became the longest yet, concluding at Lap 212 thanks to two overtime finishes.

“I think this is the first time I led Lap 200,” Busch lamented. “I wish it was 1998 rules.”

In 1998, another famed black hat of the sport ended what was a 20-year pursuit of the Harley J. Earl Trophy when Dale Earnhardt Sr. wheeled Richard Childress’ No. 3 car into Victory Lane.

Twenty-five years later, the KFB fairytale nearly became reality. The nightmare continued instead.

“It’s just par for the course,” Busch said. “Just used to it, and come down here every year to just find out when and where I’m going to crash and what lap I come out of the care center.”

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The first overtime restart saw Busch control the restart alongside teammate Austin Dillon. Busch ducked from high to low in an effort to link the Nos. 8 and 3 with William Byron’s No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

“It looked like it was kind of working,” Busch said, “but we got too much separation off of two, and I tried to back up to get to them. And when they hit me, it got me really squirrely, and then Austin checked up and then it just — the accordion happens, and everybody gets running over everybody.”

That triggered the wreck that led to a second overtime.

After another missed opportunity in NASCAR’s biggest spectacle, Busch was simply left soured at the infield care center.

“Who won? I don’t even know who lucked into it,” he said.

The answer: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who snagged his third career Cup victory, first Daytona 500 and first triumph since winning the 400-miler at Daytona in July 2017.

“There you have it,” Busch said.