I was one of the lucky fans that was able to attend the Bud Shootout; and the race delivered spectacular show. The green-white-checkered finish came down to 2011 Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart and Kyle “Rowdy” Busch. With just .013 separating the two — the closest margin in shootout history — Busch took home the victory.
Although the crowd did not cheer much when Busch won the race, they did when he saved his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota from near disaster, twice.
On Lap 48, Busch was going through Turn 1 with Jimmie Johnson on his bumper when Busch came down and made slight contact with Johnson. The contact sent Busch sideways as the car shot off sparks. Busch collected it momentarily before going sideways again. Just as the crowd was sure that Busch was about to wreck the entire field, Busch collected it, straighten out and kept on, keeping the field under green. Needless to say, the fans were in awe of Busch and thankful for his impeccable driving ability.
Later, Jeff Gordon gave Busch a hard shove in the left-rear, sending Busch sliding down to the apron. Gordon then moved up to avoid Busch and made contact with Kurt Busch, who then made contact with Jamie McMurray, sending all three cars into the wall. Kyle Busch again collected his car twice, keeping it from spinning initially. Then, however, on its third attempt, the car did spin, but Busch kept it off the wall and managed to avoid major damage. Gordon, however, wasn’t so lucky. More on that later.
From the drop of the green flag, the race had somewhat of a frantic pace. After the first big wreck involving David Ragan, Paul Menard, Michael Waltrip and Matt Kenseth, we all knew another big wreck was coming; we just didn’t know when. On Lap 55, a chain-reaction wreck occurred when Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano got together, collecting pole sitter and front runners Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Matt Kenseth.
With only a few laps remaining in the race, it seemed as if Jeff Gordon and Stewart would be battling for the checkered flag. On Lap 74, Gordon’s hopes of winning the race went up in the air – literally. Coming off of Turn 4, Stewart had taken the lead from Gordon when a violent wreck struck, resulting in Gordon barrel rolling down the front stretch. Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray were also collected in the crash. Gordon came out of the wreck uninjured. He ended up finishing 15th.
Underdog of the Race
After a rocky and emotional season in 2011, Kurt Busch was thankful to land a ride with James Finch, Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 Chevy. Phoenix is a single-car operations with limited resources. However, Busch ran near the front for most of the night, until becoming a victim of the wreck on Lap 74. His driving efforts didn’t go unnoticed, and I believe he will be a driver to watch in the Daytona 500 this weekend — considering he’s got Hendrick horsepower under the hood of his Chevy.
Best Comeback of the Race
Last season Clint Bowyer left Richard Childress Racing to join Michael Waltrip racing’s No. 15 team. Bowyer started his first race with MWR in 17th position and was soon racing at the front of the pack. On Lap 31, teammate Martin Truex Jr. gave Bowyer a shove going down the frontstretch, sending Bowyer spinning through the grass. After overcoming a variety of challenges throughout the race, Bowyer found himself in third for the green-white-checkered finish. Although he wasn’t able to battle for the win, Bowyer finished the race in eighth position.