Kyle Busch led less than a lap of the 2021 Busch Clash NASCAR Cup Series exhibition race on the Daytona International Speedway road course Tuesday night, but he led when it counted. When a last-lap battle for the lead between Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney got physical, sending Blaney into a spin, Busch took advantage of the opportunity to race from third to the lead and on to the win.
“I knew to keep my head down and keep focus ahead and see if I could keep hitting my marks to get close enough to have a shot like that – if something like that were to materialize. Fortunately it did for us. I can’t say enough about Ben Beshore [crew chief] and this whole M&Ms team – this new M&Ms team. I appreciate what they do for me, everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota, TRD. It’s awesome to start off the year with a win a non-points win, but I would love nothing more than to be right here this Sunday.”
Elliott, winner of the four most recent Cup Series, points-paying road-course races, including the first series race on the Daytona road course last season, still managed a second-place finish after starting in the back because of an unapproved change to his car before the race.
Race pole sitter Blaney, though, wound up 13th in the 21-car race.
“Yeah, and neither one of us won;e that’s the big one,” Elliott said. “I was close enough to drive it in there, and I feel like I’d be mad at myself for not at least trying. Obviously, I don’t mean to wreck anybody, especially him. Some guys I wouldn’t mind. But he’s not one of them. Hopefully, he’s not too mad at me. I feel like you’ve got to go for it, here, in an event like this in any situation.”
” I can’t be sorry about going for the win, but I certainly didn’t mean to wreck him. I drove in there, and just that corner gets so tight, and I didn’t want to just completely jump the curb to the right. But I feel like I tried to get over, there, as far as I could. And at that point, we were coming together at the same time. I hate it. We had a fast Llumar Chevrolet in a position to have a shot at it. We’ll try again on Sunday.”
Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin, dominated the race, leading 21 laps before pitting for new tires during the final caution of the race, brought out by a third JGR driver, Martin Truex Jr., on lap 28.
Elliott stayed out, having run out of tires, and inherited the lead. Blaney, like Hamlin, was among the drivers who pitted for tires during the final yellow flag, and when the race restarted, he quickly moved up to second and took the lead from Elliott on the penultimate lap of the race.
Hamlin wound up sixth after leading nearly two-thirds of the race.
Hamlin, Elliott, Blaney and Truex were the only four drivers who led multiple laps. Elliott and Blaney each ran up front for four laps, and Truex led two when he took the lead from Hamlin on lap 14, just before a competition caution.
After taking the lead, Truex was penalized for missing the chicane that included laps 13 and 14 during the caution. He took the lead from Hamlin, again, though, just before he caused the the final caution. His last stint up front wasn’t long enough for him to be credited for leading another lap before retiring from the race.
As a result of his late-race incident, Truex was the only driver among the 21 who started the race to not finish it.
Joey Logano finished third, Tyler Reddick was fourth, and William Byron rounded out the top-five. Other top-10 finishers included Alex Bowman in seventh, Erik Jones in eighth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in ninth, and Matt DiBenedetto in 10th.