In a green-white-checkered finish and with a great push from James Buescher it was Matt Kenseth winning the Subway Firecracker 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway on Friday night. A late crash with five laps to go pushed the 100 lap race to a distance of 101 with Kenseth and Buescher being the only two drivers to get hooked up in a tandem draft from the drop of the green flag for the full two final laps of green.
The win was the 27th of Kenseth's Nationwide Series career and his first for Joe Gibbs Racing. It was also the first win for Matt Lucas as a crew chief. The decision Kenseth, the races leader when the red flag came out on lap 96, made to restart on the bottom lane in front of Buescher ended up being the winning move.
"I felt like the outside lane was better but James had pushed me so fast," Kenseth said in victory lane. "It was important to keep him with me. He did a really good job of getting us up to the lead and putting us in a position to try to win so I wanted to make sure we stuck with him. He did a great job, a really really good job pushing there."
The tandem pulled out to a big lead as they took the white flag and the rest of the field was shuffling three-wide to get in position to make a run. Nothing could develop in time and Buescher also wasn't able to pull his own move off to try to pass Kenseth at the line.
The other big news was the Dash 4 Cash, where the highest finishing driver between Elliott Sadler, Brian Vickers, Austin Dillon, and Kyle Larson would win $100,000. Sadler came away with the money by finishing in third with a good push from Kurt Busch who finished in fourth. Austin Dillon came from near the back on the last restart to almost take the cash but finished fifth just shy of Sadler. Kyle Larson finished in sixth and Brian Vickers 13th after he was almost wrecked while leading on lap 78.
The race got underway with Austin Dillon on his sixth pole of the season but it was the tandem of Travis Pastrana and Brian Scott that led lap 1. Scott led lap 2 by a nose over Pastrana and then Austin Dillon went to the lead with a push from Elliott Sadler on lap 3. Lap 4 saw Kurt Busch get the lead before Dillon again led lap 5.
The dominant tandem of the night took control on lap 8 with Joey Logano pushing Sam Hornish Jr, his Penske Racing teammate, to the lead for the first time. In all Hornish would lead 61 of the 101 laps with Logano pushing him for all of them.
On lap 23 Matt Kenseth took his first lead with a push from Kurt Busch but Hornish and Logano then led from lap 24 to lap 32 when Regan Smith and Brian Vickers drafted by. Smith and Vickers pitted for green flag stops on lap 34 and Hornish and Logano came down on lap 36.
After the round of stops it was Brian Vickers being pushed by Regan Smith in the lead on lap 37. On lap 41 Hornish again was pushed to the front by Logano but on lap 43 Vickers and Smith fought back again to lead a lap before Hornish and Logano regained it on lap 44.
They were leading when the first caution came out on lap 48 for debris on the backstretch. Parker Kligerman was the recipient of the free pass and Hornish held the lead on the pit stops.
The race went back green on lap 52 and Elliott Sadler and Kurt Busch got the good start. It didn't take long though and on lap 54 Logano pushed Hornish back in front. Justin Allgaier then was pushed to the lead by Matt Kenseth on lap 60 before Hornish again led on lap 61.
James Buescher then led with a push from Kyle Larson on lap 64 and then Kurt Busch led lap 65 with his brother Kyle Busch pushing. Hornish took the lead again on lap 66 with the great tandem draft of Logano.
The second caution then came out on lap 69 when Reed Sorenson blew and engine. He finished in 39th of the 40 cars. Logano gained the lead on the pit stops and led the field to green on lap 77.
Brian Vickers darted to the lead with help from Matt Kenseth but that help almost ruined his race on lap 78 when down the backstretch Kenseth got into the right-rear of Vickers at a bad angle and turned the No. 20 Toyota sideways. Vickers saved it as best he could but got in the grass and lost the draft. No caution came out.
Kyle Larson then found himself in the lead. On lap 81 Kenseth was pushed to the lead after James Buescher picked him up after Kenseth lost Vickers. Then on lap 82 Hornish was again pushed to the lead by Logano. Kenseth was back in the lead on lap 86 with help from Buescher.
Kenseth was leading on lap 89 when the third caution came out for Mike Wallace's stopped car. Wallace finished in 37th.
The race restarted on lap 93 with the intensity at a race high. The tandem of Kenseth and Buescher led lap 93 and 94 and then while working lap 95 the first crash of the night brought out the fourth caution and then a red flag on lap 96.
Travis Pastrana tried to move to the low lane between Turns 3 and 4 to follow his teammate Trevor Bayne but did not have Cole Whitt cleared. The two touched which sent Pastrana sideways and then up the track into three-wide traffic. He slammed into Jason White and also collected Jeffrey Earnhardt Robert Richardson Jr, and Jamie Dick. Jason White climbed from his battered No. 24 Toyota and immediately went to the ground for about two minutes before walking to the ambulance. He was then interviewed by ESPN after exiting the infield care center and was okay.
Dick stayed on the lead lap and finished 25th. Richardson Jr finished 32nd, Earnhardt 33rd, Pastrana 34th, and White 35th.
That set up the green-white-checkered finish with a restart on lap 99. Buescher stayed glued to Kenseth's bumper and the race was decided there. On the final lap Ty Dillon and Brad Sweet got into each other on the backstretch and Dillon finished 27th and Sweet 28th as the last lead lap car.
There were a total of 31 lead changes amongst 14 different drivers.
The finishing order was Matt Kenseth, James Buescher second, Elliott Sadler fourth, Kurt Busch fourth, Austin Dillon fifth, Kyle Larson sixth, Sam Hornish Jr seventh, Regan Smith eighth, Joey Logano ninth, and Trevor Bayne tenth. Kyle Busch was 11th, Justin Allgaier 12th, Brian Vickers 13th, Mike Bliss 14th, Michael Annett 15th, Brian Scott 16th, Cole Whitt 17th, Parker Kligerman 18th, Joe Nemechek 19th, and Alex Bowman 20th.
Regan Smith still holds the points lead over Sam Hornish Jr but lost two points in his lead which is now down to six points after being as high as 58. Elliott Sadler is third in points 14 back with Justin Allgaier fourth 15 back and Austin Dillon fifth 17 points back. Kyle Larson is sixth, Brian Vickers seventh, Parker Kligerman, eighth, Brian Scott ninth, and Trevor Bayne tenth.
The next race up for the NASCAR Nationwide Series is Saturday, July 13th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on ABC.
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