DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Tony Stewart led lap after lap around Daytona International Speedway, using a flawless pit-road performance to inch closer to his second win as owner of his race team.
Then Kyle Busch slid outside in a last-lap bid to snatch the victory away from his former teammate.
The frantic 2.5-mile chase Saturday night led to a violent wreck that sent Busch sailing into the wall while Stewart skirted by for a somber victory.
Stewart celebrated Saturday night with a bit of heartache.
Busch left the speedway with a definite headache.
Just another wild restrictor-plate finish for NASCAR, which is still smarting from April’s frightening crash at Talladega Superspeedway, where Carl Edwards went airborne into the fence on the final lap in a similar last-lap crash.
“That’s not the way I wanted to do it,” said Stewart, who won the summer Daytona race for the third time in five years.
Stewart usually takes every win any way he can. But after wrecking Busch in the frantic finish, he wasn’t in the mood to gloat.
Busch passed Stewart right before the final lap to take the lead, but Stewart chased him down and calculated his next move. He closed in on Busch’s bumper, and slight contact sent Busch drifting up the track.
Busch slid back down to maintain his lead, then tried to slide in front of Stewart to block Stewart’s next move. The cars were too close together and Stewart hooked Busch’s right corner to send Busch sailing into the wall.
It triggered a multiple crash behind them, but Stewart sailed through for his second points win of the season.
“I went where I had to go, and he went where he had to go,” Stewart said. “You hate seeing a guy that’s been up front all day, especially a guy that’s helped me the whole race, wreck like that. You’re kind of forced in that position. But I made my move to the outside and he went to block us and we were already there.
“It still doesn’t mean you like it. That’s not the way to win these things. If I did something wrong, I’m sorry.”
It was a horrendous wreck for Busch, who climbed from his car apparently unscathed but had to be forced by four NASCAR officials into a waiting safety vehicle. He finished 14th and refused to comment after the race.
Team owner Joe Gibbs briefly checked on Busch, who needed intravenous fluids after driving a 70-minute stint in stifling heat earlier Saturday in his Grand-Am Series debut. Gibbs said Busch had a headache, and would be monitored overnight.
Jimmie Johnson was second, followed by Denny Hamlin, Busch’s teammate. Edwards was fourth, Kurt Busch fifth and Marcos Ambrose sixth.
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