The Great Pumpkin arrived early, and Kurt Busch left Daytona International Speedway with something more than peanuts after winning Friday night’s Subway Jalapeno 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race in a battered No. 1 Chevrolet that looked like a refuge from Halloween.
With a strong push from defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Busch took the checkered flag in a wild race that ended with Austin Dillon wrecking in the tri-oval as Busch crossed the finish line.
Stenhouse came home second, followed by Michael Annett, who was pushing Dillon during a green-white-checkered-flag finish that took the race one lap beyond its scheduled distance of 100 laps.
As the action intensified over the final quarter-mile, Dillon slid sideways across the stripe in fourth place, with Joey Logano and series leader Elliott Sadler taking fifth and sixth, respectively. The top-five for Logano, the series’ top winner with five victories this season, took a sour turn in post-race inspection when his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was ruled too low in front. Penalties for the No. 18 team are possible early next week.
Busch picked up his second win of the season and his fifth in 23 Nationwide starts, in a day-glow orange car that differed from the usual bright red he drives for owner James Finch.
“I showed up at the shop on Tuesday, and we talked about how our Kentucky week went, what we could have done better,” Busch said. “I went out back in the fab (fabrication) shop, and they were wrapping on both of our cars, this fluorescent orange color. And I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’
“It’s just the energy James Finch has for Daytona. He wanted his cars orange, so they could be seen up front, so that car could be recognized without a sponsor on it. And we drove an unsponsored car into Victory Lane tonight. I was just being my normal sarcastic self on the radio, and I said, ‘The Great Pumpkin is here, and the Great Pumpkin isn’t going to lift coming to the checkered flag.’ “
Stenhouse saw an opportunity on the restart with two laps left and planted the nose of his car on Busch’s rear bumper.
“That last restart, we didn’t have many people to work with, and I saw him (Busch) hung out there in the center, and I got a good restart and jumped to the middle and caught up with the 1,” Stenhouse said. “He was fast all night, and I just pushed him to the win.
“I was hoping I could make a move there (coming to the finish), but I saw the 3 (Dillon) and everybody coming, so I kind of tried to duck out and block them, and we ended up second. It was exciting, and I hope the fans enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun.”
Danica Patrick led 14 laps and escaped one major wreck before being collected late in the race.
As Kevin Harvick and Mike Wallace tried to swap positions at the front of the field on Lap 66, Patrick pushed Justin Allgaier to the front as a 15-car wreck erupted behind her. Wallace moved down the track into the Chevrolet of James Buescher, then bounced up into Brad Keselowski’s Dodge in the outside lane.
The chain-reaction wreck also collected Harvick, series leader Sadler, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Cole Whitt (Patrick’s JR Motorsports teammate), Clint Bowyer and Annett, among others. Sadler’s damage was minimal, and he soon regained the lead. Annett’s crew repaired cosmetic damage on his car as well.
In fact, Sadler held the point on Lap 83, when an off-center push from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. turned Jeffrey Earnhardt sideways in front of the main pack of cars. As drivers checked up in reaction to the wreck, Patrick was launched toward the inside SAFER barrier and took a vicious hit when her No. 7 Chevrolet slammed into the wall.
Busch made six pit stops under caution as his crew repaired the damage to his car — enough to get it to Victory Lane.
Notes: One week after he claimed his first top-five finish in 120 Nationwide starts, Annett picked up his second one . . . Stenhouse, Annett, Dillon and Sadler qualified for the first leg of Nationwide’s Dash 4 Cash next Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The top finisher among those four drivers wins $100,000 . . . Dillon started 42nd after his pole-winning qualifying time was disallowed because a cooling tube in the No. 3 Chevrolet was left open into the cockpit, contrary to a technical bulletin NASCAR issued earlier in the week . . . The race set a Nationwide Series track record for lead changes (42 between 16 drivers).