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Kyle Busch stuns everyone with great saves and a brilliant rally to win the crash-marred Bud Shootout

  That's Kyle Busch sideways throwing sparks...one of several brilliant saves he made in Saturday night's Shootout (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   If you like crashes, you'll love this Daytona.
   And if you admire great driving, and brilliant comebacks, you have to admire what Kyle Busch did here Saturday night.
   It was the stuff of legend.
   Kyle Busch!
   Amazing, flat amazing.
   The best driver in stock car racing today?
   He made another strong case right here.
   "Amazing race….It was fun to drive when I wasn't getting turned around," Busch said in relief, perhaps surprised at winning, after all the brutal action.
   "First race back in the M&Ms car, and we're in victory lane."
   That was reference to his controversial finish to the 2011 season, in which NASCAR 'parked' him after an incident at Texas, leading sponsor M&Ms to chastise him.
   Kyle Busch not only won Saturday night's highly dramatic Bud Shootout – in a thrilling photo-finish, in overtime no less – but that win came after one of the most stunning saves in many years in this sport…a save destined to be remembered for a long, long time.
   And Busch made another stunning save in the final moments of the race, after he had charged back into contention.


Kyle Busch (18) timed his finishing charge perfectly, catching Tony Stewart right at the finish line (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   Let the second-guessing begin:
   It was one of those 'last man standing' races, and there may be a lot of questions about NASCAR's new rules package for this year's Daytona 500 after the slugfest, wreck-fest that Shootout devolved into.
   And the many crashes were multi-car crashes.
   NASCAR's attempt to end the two-car drafting that dominated the 2011 tour's races at Daytona and Talladega may have indeed recreated 'pack' racing. But, as some drivers had worried, the element of danger was likewise intensified.
   Two-car racing, some drivers said, was safer.
   Every crash Saturday night was triggered by a driver making a mistake, usually by pushing too hard on the car ahead.
   Some of the rules NASCAR has imposed may now bear review.
   Only three of the 25 drivers in the field finished without serious bruises.
   Jeff Gordon's flipping crash with two laps to go was the wildest crash of the night. He went barrel-rolling while battling for the lead with Busch and Tony Stewart.
   Gordon, in fact, was the man triggering that accident, pushing Busch too hard into the corner, getting Busch very sideways, but then skidding himself up the track in heavy traffic.


Jeff Gordon's flipping crash was frightening. And it was a night of sheer carnage (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   Gordon escaped without serious injury, but only after a few frightening moments.
   "I've never been upside down in one of these cars," Gordon said. "The hit to the wall was much harder than the rest of it. The roll was pretty soft and pretty easy. The protection we have inside of these cars is amazing because I didn't even hardly feel any of it.
    "The toughest part is when you're laying upside down and you can't get out of the car. The roof was caved-in a little bit, and that was no fun."

   At the time of the crash Stewart was leading Busch, and Gordon was third and pressuring Busch hard.
   After hitting Busch, Gordon slid up the track and ran into Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson, and the jam-up was on.
   The incident also took out Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards and Marcos Ambrose.
  "Gordon just wrecked the 18," Kurt Busch complained.
  The wreck left Kurt Busch and new team owner James Finch with yet another wiped out racer. Finch had to unload the backup after a Friday night crash.
   Stewart appeared the man to beat on the final restart, with two to go, in a green-white-checkered finish. But Stewart didn't get a great restart. Stewart, running a car that he had badly damaged in a Friday night crash, rallied to regain the lead. But Busch timed his comeback perfectly and caught Stewart at the line.

   One of the night's many crashes: Matt Kenseth (17), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88), Kevin Harvick (29), Joey Logano (20) and Martin Truex Jr. (56). Harvick blamed the crash on Marcos Ambrose, who escaped the incident (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Gordon clearly had a car that could win, and he was certainly aggressive: "I was trying to stay with Kyle, but every time I got to Kyle's bumper he got sideways. So I was going to the outside around him but there was traffic there.
   "We're still bump drafting, we're just doing it in packs. And we have less downforce, so the cars are moving around a lot."

    Less downforce on the rear was a factor in several crashes, with the trailing car actually turning the lead car around.
    Despite all the mayhem, Stewart insisted this type of racing was "definitely a lot more fun" than the two-car packs. "You felt a lot more eager to be engaged in the race.
    "I actually had fun racing at Daytona again…which I haven't had for a while.
    "So I'm really, really appreciative to the work that NASCAR has done in the off season and the test session and even after the test of the changes that they made to try to make it better for us out there.
    "I don't know what the consensus is from everybody else, but I had more fun as a driver tonight than what we've had in the past."

     Not everyone was buying that line.
     Predictions are for massive wrecks in the 500 too.

     And some suggested that drivers might have an informal meeting during the week to try to agree not to do much racing the first two hours of the 500, to play it safe, and then let it all hang out at the end.
     Some are suggesting NASCAR raise the rear spoiler, to add downforce. "It would make us feel safer to push…which might be the wrong way to go, in my thinking," Kyle Busch said.

   J.D. Gibbs, who runs the Joe Gibbs operation, seemed as amazed as anyone with Busch's saves and rally to win.
    "Three times I thought 'that's it, we're done,'" Gibbs said.

   The best driver in NASCAR? Kyle Busch added to his growing reputation with his amazing win Saturday night (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   "It was cool…it got my attention…I don't think it'd be that much fun to do it every day," Busch said.
   "To be knocked around and beat around like this and be able to prevail, this is certainly a memorable race for me. It was interesting to make the saves and then look in your mirror and everyone is stabbing the brakes, and you drive off again and they're thinking 'Huh?'"
    Stewart said Busch's saves were some of the coolest he'd ever seen. "Probably  because there sparks flying all over his windshield," Busch said with a laugh.
   Stewart was genuinely impressed: "He did a fantastic job with that save. Man, that's the coolest save I've seen in a long time. 
    "That was a pretty big moment. And it was pretty cool to see somebody that went through two big moments like that come out and win the race."

   Matt Kenseth was one of many drivers crashed out: "I think this is pretty much exactly like it was before the two-car tandem.  This is kind of like what pack racing is…except we're going quite a bit faster.
    "The car has quite a bit of grip, and we're going really fast, the closing rate is really fast. So it's about what I expected.
    "I don't know what their goal (NASCAR's) was exactly.  Certainly if the goal was to get rid of the two-car tandem, it seemed to do that pretty good."

   The night's action began with David Ragan tagging Paul Menard, launching a big crash.
   "Everybody was real racy, and I just got into the back of Menard," Ragan said.  "You get a good run and you're pushing a little bit…and I guess he was pushing Kevin Harvick in front of him. If I had known he was pushing the car in front of him, I probably could have backed off a little bit."
    Two-car packs may be dead. "NASCAR definitely accomplished their goal," Ragan said.  "We can't run together very long at all, unless we're overheating; a lap or two is really about all."

   Marcos Ambrose, who survived for third, called it "a crazy race, that's for sure. 
   "I saw pretty much every spin, crash.  I was either in it, around it, or I just dodged it.
  "Even though we crashed more tonight, you just feel like you were in control of your own destiny a little more out there."
   Ambrose, though, was one of the more aggressive, pushing Joey Logano too hard one time and triggering a huge crash, which took out Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
    There was a lot of crashing, a lot of crashing.
    However Stewart dismissed the issue: "You can always push harder in this race than the 500 because we run this at night and it's a lot cooler. 
   "We'll have most likely a lot warmer conditions a week from tomorrow.  That will eliminate some of the stuff that guys were really trying to push the envelope on."
   And when he was pressed further on the numerous big crashes, Stewart snapped back "Do you have any better ideas?  I think everybody's always open. 
    "NASCAR asked the teams and the drivers what we could do to make it better….
    "My point is this is better than having to sit there and stare at the back of a spoiler for 500 miles and not be able to see where you're going half the race. 
    "We had control of what lane we got to run in.  We got to move whenever we wanted.  You didn't have to not move because you had a guy behind you that you had to rely on making your decision on what he had to do also. 
    "We had more control as drivers.
    "Look at the history of this race.  They always crash here.  Go to Talladega, they crash cars there.  It's a yard sale every time we go to a restrictor plate track."
   Earnhardt, despite getting crashed out, agreed with Stewart: "I like it better. 
   "The closing rate is a little fast; guys will go flying backwards and forwards.
    "But I think we made a lot of great improvements. I have more of my destiny in my hands in this type of racing."

   But other drivers seemed less than enthusiastic. Jimmie Johnson said Gordon's crash shook him: "When we hit the wall, I stared at the bottom of his car for a long time until it sat down. 
    "Luckily it didn't start tumbling.
    "Just pack racing. It's back."
    With resignation and reservations….
    Like Jeff Burton pointed out. Burton was knocked out too in one of the many bad crashes.
   "Plate racing is a huge challenge…and one of the great things about the tandem racing is it separated the pack," Burton said.
   "One of the bad things about tandem racing is I guess people thought it was boring.
    "It is the driver's responsibility not to cause wrecks….but it is just really hard. It is really hard."


   Daytona International Speedway on a beautiful Saturday night. But the action on the track was downright brutal (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



This article wrapped it up

This article wrapped it up well. Very nicely written Mike.

thanks. i've watched a lot of

thanks. i've watched a lot of men race at daytona over the years, and i'm not sure even the Big E could have made saves like Kyle did Saturday night. Impressed the hell out of me. And I'm not easily impressed.

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