DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – No driver has won back-to-back Daytona 500s since Sterling Marlin accomplished the feat in 1994-1995, but Kurt Busch was close enough to taste it on Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.
After a restart on Lap 194 of a scheduled 200, Busch bulled his way into the lead, thanks in part to a shove from Aric Almirola.
“I was feeling the magic,” acknowledged Busch, who held the top spot on laps 195 and 196.
But Ryan Blaney surged back into the lead on Lap 197, only to surrender it to Denny Hamlin on Lap 198. Busch had a run on Hamlin in Turns 1 and 2, but Hamlin moved up the track to block, breaking the momentum of Busch’s No. 41 Ford.
Running behind Busch, Blaney couldn’t check up quickly enough, and contact between his car and Busch’s turned Busch into the wall, igniting a 13-car wreck that eliminated the No. 41 and left Busch wistful about what might have been.
“I thought we could do it again back-to-back and win the Daytona 500,” Busch said. “We found the right drafting lanes, and I was making good moves. I just got caught in a Bermuda Triangle, it seemed like, when Hamlin blocked us. I hit him pretty hard and that killed a lot of my momentum.
“Maybe I should have just flung the 11 (Hamlin), but you have to treat guys with respect, and you’ve also got to throw your elbows out and you have to hold the hits when you get hit. We were close to going back-to-back in the Daytona 500, but I don’t have anything to show for it.”