In a weekend of unlikely winners, James Buescher took the checkered flag under caution in Saturday’s Drive4COPD 300 Nationwide Series race with wreckage from the cars of the likely winners strewn behind him in Turn 4 at Daytona International Speedway.
Buescher, a first-time winner in the series, took advantage of a last-lap wreck involving front-runners Trevor Bayne, Tony Stewart, Elliott Sadler, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch to score the victory, one day after rookie John King won his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in his first trip to Daytona.
Brad Keselowski dodged the wreck to finish second, with Elliott Sadler coming home third. Rookies Cole Whitt and Austin Dillon ran fourth and fifth, respectively.
Buescher survived damage from a late-race crash to secure the win. It was a case of right place, right time.
“I got caught up in one of those late-race wrecks, but it’s not over — we’re still in it,” Buescher said of his attitude approaching a restart with two laps left in the 120-lap race. “There wasn’t a lot of damage on the car.”
Compounding Buescher’s problem was the loss of his most effective drafting partners — Justin Allgaier and Joe Nemechek — in earlier crashes.
“We lost all of our track position,” Buescher said. “I had to get back through there using everybody else’s draft, but (with) no drafting partner . . .
“It’s incredible. This is top of the list for any racecar driver to win at — and we did it today.”
A race that had been peppered with minor incidents produced a huge one on Lap 104, when the front of the field accordioned in Turn 4, and cars began checking up and wrecking mid-pack. All told, 20 cars were involved in the crash, including the machines of Denny Hamlin, Kenny Wallace and Allgaier.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ducked to the bottom of the track to avoid the wreck and sustained minor damage to the right side of his Chevrolet. After a four-minute stoppage to pry the splitter from Wallace’s wrecked car from the Turn 4 wall, Earnhardt restarted 14th on Lap 113.
But Earnhardt fell victim to a 14-car pileup one lap later when contact from David Ragan’s Ford turned Sam Hornish’s Dodge to trigger the multicar wreck.
Pole-sitter Danica Patrick exited the race on Lap 49, after a hard tap from Cole Whitt, her teammate at JR Motorsports, knocked Patrick’s No. 7 Chevrolet out of control and into the Turn 3 wall.
Patrick’s team pushed the car to the garage for extensive repairs, losing 48 laps in the process. She returned to the track on Lap 98 and finished 38th, an inauspicious start to a championship campaign.