DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — James Buescher was so far behind coming into the fourth turn on the final lap of Saturday’s Drive4COPD 300, he had plenty of time to steer through an 11-car crash.
Buescher emerged through the smoke, flying debris and spinning cars to pass 10 cars and became an improbable winner at Daytona International Speedway.
“It happened quick but it was kind of slow in the moment,” he said.
A three-wide, two-deep battle involving Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. turned into a melee when Busch moved up to block the on-coming charge.
“I was far enough back that I saw the outside line going to try to pass for the lead. Whoever was leading, I think it was the 1 car (Kurt Busch). I think he went up and tried to block a little bit, everybody started rubbing fenders. They all turned into the wall together.”
When that happened, Buescher slowed down and snaked his way through the crash, once moving far left of the yellow out of bounds line. Just as he cleared the last damaged car, NASCAR threw the caution flag which locked him in as the race winner.
Buescher wasn’t penalized for going out of bounds because he was trying to avoid the accident.
“Nobody wanted to work with me at the end,” Buescher said. “We were all on our own. I saw them get together there and I went to the bottom. I somehow got through there. I dodged all the bullets. We stayed in it to the end.”
Brad Keselowski was involved in the crash, but his Dodge limped home in second. Elliott Sadler was third, Cole Whitt was fourth and Austin Dillon was fifth.
Buescher’s victory was the second stunning win in two days at the 2.5-mile raceway. Friday night, John King won the Camping World Truck Series race by steering clear of three big accidents in overtime.
Danica Patrick started on the pole, but she was knocked off track – and into the wall – by Whitt, her JR Motorsports teammate. She lost 48 laps in the garage while her team made repairs.
Stewart, trying to win his seventh consecutive season-opening Nationwide Series race, finished eighth.
“The door got slammed on us,” Stewart said. “It wasn’t a very good time to either try blocking or moving.”
There was a 20-car crash with 17 laps remaining and an eight-car pileup with nine laps to go.
“I quickly reminded myself why I don’t run these races,” said fulltime Sprint Cup driver Denny Hamlin.
It didn’t go well for the rest of the Sprint Cup moonlighters, either. Kasey Kahne was ninth, Kurt Busch was 10th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 15th, Logano was 16th and Kyle Busch was 18th.