After two prior multi-car accidents during Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona, the Sprint Cup drivers in the field were the ones mostly involved in the last “big one” of the day at the final turn. Kurt and Kyle Busch, along with Trevor Bayne, Tony Stewart, Elliott Sadler, Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were in the accident. All will be in Sunday's Daytona 500.
“When they all crashed up high, I was clear,” Kyle Busch said afterward, unharmed despite a brutal blow into the outside retaining wall. “I shot as low as I could and somebody tagged me in the back and hooked me dead right. It was a really, really hard hit and there were a few more after that. It seemed like they kept coming. I swore when they all went up high, I was the leader for a second and I'm like, ‘I won this thing. I won this thing.'
“I thought we were going to win this thing, then those guys started running behind us and got a run to the outside and got up there and then separated Kurt and I. Kurt went up to block those guys and kind of squeezed them it looked like. I thought they were two wide and they all squeezed together so they must have been three wide. They all wrecked and I was shooting through on the bottom. I thought I saw the checkered flag and the next thing I know I got hooked and shot up right, right into the fence, a really hard lick, a couple of them actually. Guys kept coming through there and wailing on me. Hopefully we have a better day tomorrow.”
Kurt Busch, at the head of the accident, attempted to explain his perspective: “We took the white leading and had the lead halfway down the back. Everybody was side drafting and we got separated. I went to crowd the outside lane, didn't know that there were two cars up there. I thought it was just a single lane. I was trying to side draft to get the best finish I could at the end. Everybody was racing to the end. Man, a lot of tore up cars. That's just everybody full throttle at the end.”
Stewart stopped short of blaming anyone for the accident, but admitted it was a mess. “I don't know that we even made it to Turn 4. We got a big run on the outside and all of a sudden the door got slammed on us. I don't know why whoever it was turned right, but it wasn't a very good time to either try blocking or moving. It was definitely not the finish we wanted for sure.”
Brad Keselowski, who narrowly avoided the mess to finish second, had a thoughtful view on the drivers' mentality for this type of racing, in packs, at restrictor plate tracks.
“I feel like we walk a line in this sport between daredevils and chess players,” he admitted. “When we come to Daytona and tracks like this, we're maybe more on the daredevil side of the line, and then we go other places where I'd say we're more on the chess-player side of the line. And I think it's important to have tracks like this that maybe average it back out a little bit. Ideally, we'd like to just walk straight down the line all the time.
“But from a standpoint of the sport and the health of it, I think not a lot of people watch chess matches, and I've never seen one televised, or maybe I just changed the channel and didn't know it. A long time ago they were? They're not very exciting. I think it takes that right balance. Certainly being a daredevil is something completely different as well. It takes that fine line. We have to walk it all the time. We're probably a little bit to the left of the line when we come to these place. But you know it, I'm OK with that 'cause I feel like when it averages out, we're probably walking pretty well.”