Leaders' last-corner tangle gifts Kyle Busch the Clash win

John Harrelson / Motorsport Images

Leaders' last-corner tangle gifts Kyle Busch the Clash win

NASCAR

Leaders' last-corner tangle gifts Kyle Busch the Clash win

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A tangle between Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott in the final corner on the Busch Clash’s last lap at Daytona turned into a gift for Kyle Busch.

Blaney led Elliott going into the frontstretch chicane after taking the lead with two laps to go. The Penske Ford driver had charged to the front from the 10th position on fresher tires when the race restarted with five laps to go. Blaney drove into the chicane deep, but Elliott’s Hendrick Chevrolet got into his right side, and the two came together on the left-hander.

Blaney spun toward the outside wall as an ever-vigilant Busch snuck past Elliott for the lead and the win. It was the only lap he led all night.

“I knew to keep my head down and keep focus ahead, 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,” said Busch who claimed his second win in the exhibition event. “Fortunately, it did for us. I can’t say enough about Ben Beshore (crew chief) and this whole M&M’s team – this new M&M’s 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 finished second and walked to Blaney’s car on pit road to apologize. Both drivers acknowledged the contact was unintentional.

“I was close enough to drive it in there, and I feel like I’d be mad at myself for not at least trying,” said Elliott. “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 and in the situation. I can’t be sorry for going for the win, but I certainly didn’t mean to wreck him.

“I drove in there, and 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. Hate it. We had a fast Llumar Chevrolet in a position to have a shot at it, so we’ll try again Sunday.”

Blaney fell to 13th in the finishing order.

“Just two guys going hard,” Blaney said of Elliott’s move. “We didn’t really get away from him like I needed to on the last lap there after we passed him. I didn’t get away from him. I kind of slipped up one or two corners, and he was able to get into me there and kind of keep me close.

“I hit the mud hard on the backstretch and kind of let him get even closer; and then I was trying to protect against the dive bomb there. I braked deeper in that corner than I had braked all night, and he set it off in there, and we came together, and neither one of us won the race.

“It definitely sucks for sure, but I appreciate the fast car, and it’s a shame it didn’t happen.”

A caution with seven laps to go set up the run to the finish. Martin Truex Jr. had taken the lead from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin in Turn 6, but then spun off the backstretch chicane and hit the outside wall. It was the end of Truex’s night.

Blaney was one of 14 drivers who pitted under the caution. Elliott did not have a fresh set of tires available and inherited the race lead, which was the first time he led the field after starting at the back because of unapproved adjustments after inspection.

Both Blaney and Elliott led four laps. Denny Hamlin led the most laps, 21, but also pitted under the final caution but made it only up to sixth at the finish.

Busch’s victory is the second consecutive for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Busch Clash. Erik Jones won the event on the oval last year. The Gibbs organization now has 10 victories in the event.

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