The reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch started this season just as he ended last season in victory lane as a multi-car wreck broke out behind the #18 M&M’s 75 Toyota, Ky. Busch was able to prevail and took the checker flag. Prior to the start of the race Busch said he was going to race hard during the Can-Am Duel race.
Ky. Busch started on the outside of Row 1 alongside pole-sitter and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth, who led the opening 23 laps before a piece of debris on his grille forced the need to deliberately let his JGR teammate take the lead to remove the debris. In a flawless move Ky. Busch dropped down low to make the pass on Kenseth, Kenseth was then able to drive his #20 Dollar General Toyota up to the bumper of the #18 Toyota to clean off the grille.
“I guess it was quiet and calm there for a long time and the last lap just went kind of crazy,” said Busch, who led 35 of 60 laps. “Great car, these guys at Joe Gibbs Racing did a phenomenal job this winter, building some new pieces for us to come down here with and have some fun.”
Ky. Busch led 35 of the 60 laps in the second Can-Am Duel race. He has scored three Duel victories in 12 attempts and will start in the second row for Sunday’s Daytona 500, but he may start the Daytona 500 on the front row Sunday as Kenseth was one of several drivers involved in the multi-car wreck. Depending on whether pole sitter Chase Elliott chooses the inside lane or the outside lane, if Elliott chooses the inside, then Busch would move up and start on the front row when JGR teammate Kenseth falls to the rear of the field during Sunday’s pace laps. Whereas if Elliott chooses the outside, Busch would start behind him in fourth while Dale Earnhardt Jr., the Duel 1 winner, would move up to the front row on the inside of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Elliott as Kenseth falls to the rear.
Busch crossed the finish line ahead of Jamie McMurray and older brother Kurt Busch as chaos transpired behind the leaders that resulted when McMurray made a move to block Jimmie Johnson for second place in Turn 1, sending Johnson’s #48 car careening into Kurt Busch and ultimately into the path of Martin Truex Jr., A.J. Allmendinger and Kenseth, whose cars were badly damaged in the commotion.
“It’s a shame,” Truex Jr. said, one of the multiple drivers now forced to a backup car for the Daytona 500. “It’s two cars on the last lap in two races in Turn 1, so a little bit frustrating. Just going to have another decent run there, everything was looking good, the car was… I was really happy with it tonight. Just unfortunate.”
“I was kind of committed to the middle toward the high side and I see the #48 (Johnson) completely sideways in front of me and I was like, ‘He’s going to hit the car on the inside and come back up the track,’ and I couldn’t get turned down below him. It’s frustrating, but it’s restrictor-plate racing.”
Matt DiBenedetto raced his way into the Daytona 500, giving Robert Richardson Jr. the opportunity to use his qualifying speed to transfer into the Daytona 500 as the other Open drivers in Duel Two. Reed Sorensen and David Gilliland will go home early as a result.