In one of the most crash-riddled Daytona 500 races of all time, veteran driver Kurt Busch executed a last-lap pass around up-and-comer Kyle Larson in order to win his first ever "Great American Race", which is one of NASCAR's most prestigious accolades.
According to a report by The New York Times, this year's NASCAR season kick-off was fraught with crash after crash, causing 15 of the 40 competing drivers to pack it in early as a result of heavy damage. One wreck in particular involved 17 of NASCAR's most popular drivers, including three drivers from Kurt Busch's racing team, Stewart-Haas Racing, of which NASCAR legend Tony Stewart is an owner. In the end, however, it was Stewart-Haas's last surviving driver who won the race.
“I was thankful I got through a lot of the wrecks,” Busch said. “Daytona is always survival. Ninety percent of this race is to protect the car, and 10 percent is to go for aggression.” Kurt Busch was involved in several paint-trading rubs, but none of them put the Las Vegas native out of commission. “This car’s completely thrashed. There’s not a straight panel on it," Kurt said in his post-race interview.
Busch's most aggressive move came as he rounded turn three of the iconic two-and-a-half-mile track, however, when he forced his number 41 Ford around Kyle Larson's number 42 car. In the last three laps, most of the race's top five biggest contenders ran out of gas.
The Daytona 500 victory is a first for Tony Stewart, who never managed to win the prestigious race prior to his retirement last year. For Stewart, however, it was just as special to win as a team owner. “If I knew that when I retired I’d win this race the next year, I’d have retired 17 years ago,” he said. “Sure, you want to win it as a driver. But I can tell you that as an owner, it’s a pretty exciting feeling.” Stewart spoke highly of Busch as well, stating, “It’s probably the most patient race I ever saw Kurt run."
Before the violent race was said and done, fans had seen several wrecks resulting in a total of nine cautions. Overall, there were 37 lead changes, four of which occurred in the last three laps. Of the 40 drivers who started the race, only 25 managed to finish it.
As for Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Cup Champion can finally add his name to the distinguished list of Daytona 500 winners alongside several NASCAR legends like Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt.
Feel free to watch Kurt's impressive last lap victory pass below: