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NASCAR: Kurt Busch wins wreck-marred Daytona 500

Kurt Busch celebrates Daytona 500 win

NASCAR driver Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500 on Sunday and was greeted in Victory Lane by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and the Monster Energy girls. Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer
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NASCAR driver Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500 on Sunday and was greeted in Victory Lane by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and the Monster Energy girls. Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer

Kurt Busch, taking advantage of fuel issues by his closest competitors, won Sunday’s NASCAR season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Pole-winner and race-leader Chase Elliott appeared to have the race under control until he ran out of gas on Lap 197 of the 200-lap race. Kyle Larson then took over the lead, but he ran out of fuel on the final lap.

That allowed Busch to take the lead and he edged Ford-driving Ryan Blaney, who started 36th.

The victory for Busch’s Stewart-Haas Racing comes after the company switched in the offseason from Chevrolet to Ford.

AJ Allmendinger finished third, with Aric Almirola and Paul Menard rounding out the top five.

The race was marred by several wrecks, including one that took out Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch. Another wreck involved 17 cars.

Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick won the first two stages of the race under the new rules system put in place by NASCAR this season.

It was the 29th career victory for Kurt Busch, who won the 2004 Cup championship.

Large crowds arrived at Daytona International Speedway for the Daytona 500. Fans gathered in the Fan Zone, infield and at the start/finish line to sign their names and wishes. Actor Own Wilson spoke on who the best racer he has worked with during

Race breakdown

Stage 1: Kyle Busch won the first stage of the first race in NASCAR’s new point system. Kevin Harvick, driving a Ford for the first time for Stewart-Haas Racing, was second.

Stage 2: The 10 points Kyle Busch earned in the first stage turned out to be pretty valuable as he wrecked out of the race on Lap 103, also taking out Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth. Harvick went on to win the stage, which also included another wreck involving 17 cars.

Stage 3: Chase Elliott took the lead from Joey Logano on Lap 175 and appeared to be headed for his first career victory. But he ran out of gas, as did Kyle Larson, allowing Kurt Busch to win.

Three who mattered

Kurt Busch: Led exactly one lap. And that’s all he needed to win the Daytona 500.

Ryan Blaney: Second-year driver nearly got his Wood Brothers Racing team its sixth Daytona 500 victory, but finished second.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Said he enjoyed his first week back in racing, but a wreck doomed him to a 37th-place finish.

Observations

▪ It didn’t appear that any of the eight accidents were a direct result of the new stage system. But the wrecks did make for more interesting racing during the early and mid-portions of the race, which is what NASCAR wanted.

▪ Perhaps there should be some kind of countdown clock, either superimposed on the television screen or actually in the pit stall, to keep track of the five minutes that are alotted for repairs to be made in the pits. That would add a lot of drama.

▪ Michael Waltrip made his final Daytona 500 appearance. Waltrip won the race in 2001 and ’03.

▪ NASCAR chairman Brian France took the unusual step in the prerace meeting of warning drivers not to block during the race. France rarely weighs in on competition issues, especially during the drivers meeting.

They said it

“Here we are. We are with the Daytona 500 trophy.” – Kurt Busch.

N@SCAR

Three tweets from Sunday’s race:

Next race

Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500

Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga.

When: 2:30 p.m., Sunday.

TV: Fox.

Radio: Performance Racing Network.

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