Daytona 500: Kurt Busch finally wins on 17th try

By Amanda Vincent, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 26, 2017 at 7:10 PM
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kurt Busch claimed his first Daytona 500 in 17 tries on Sunday, taking the lead from Kyle Larson on the final lap of the 2017 season-opener for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway. It was the only lap Busch led.

Ryan Blaney took runner-up honors, while A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola and Paul Menard rounded out the top-five.

Pole-sitter Chase Elliott took the lead for the final time with 24 laps to go, but ran out of fuel within three laps of the checkered flag, handing the lead over to Martin Truex Jr. Larson then got by Truex, but his lead was short-lived, as he gave way to Busch.

The final stage of the race, an 80-lap third stage was attrition-filled. Hendrick Motorsports drivers Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne were front-runners early in the final stage before a 16-car wreck on lap 128 began with contact between Johnson and Jamie McMurray and turned Johnson around, ultimately ending his race.

Two more wrecks came in close succession, collecting more than 10 cars. With only 50 laps remaining, only five cars of the 40 that started the race hadn't sustained at least minor crash damage -- the No. 3 of Austin Dillon, the No. 5 of Kasey Kahne, the No. 15 of Michael Waltrip, the No. 43 of Aric Almirola and the No. 47 of A.J. Allmendinger.

Kyle Busch became the first stage winner in the Cup Series under NASCAR's new race format, utilizing a strategy of pitting early in the stage. He took the lead from Kevin Harvick on lap 42 and led most of the laps through the remainder of the opening 60-lap stage.

After Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr. started on the front row and Jamie McMurray also led laps, Harvick took the lead on lap 18. Elliott returned to the front on lap 24.

Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates were on pit road when Corey LaJoie brought out the caution with difficulty getting on pit road on lap 28. As a result, Harvick was up front when the race restarted.

In the second stage, the Toyota strategy of pitting early that propelled Busch to the lead in the first stage, put Busch and fellow-Toyota drivers Matt Kenseth and rookie Erik Jones in a three-car draft on the end of the lead lap ahead of leader Earnhardt, awaiting Chevrolet pit stops. A cut right-rear tire on Busch's No. 18 sent him into a spin on lap 105 and collected Kenseth, Jones, Earnhardt and Ty Dillon. As a result, Busch and Earnhardt retired from the race, and the red flag was displayed.

The race restarted with Ford occupying nine of the top-10 positions in the running order, led by Harvick. He held off Logano to claim the second stage win.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Logano, Kahne, Waltrip, Matt DiBenedetto and Trevor Bayne.

NOTES: Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin already were winners during 2017 NASCAR Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway, with Logano winning the Advance Auto Parts Clash on Feb. 19 and Elliott and Hamlin claiming wins in the Can-Am Duel on Feb. 23. ... Elliott's pole was his second-straight Daytona 500 pole and the third-consecutive for the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team. ... Martin Truex Jr., AJ Allmendinger and Chris Buescher started in the back, despite their Can-Am Duel finishes, because their cars failed to meet NASCAR's minimum height requirement after the Duel. ... Hamlin won last year's Daytona 500. ... The 2017 Daytona 500 was the first official race for Dale Earnhardt Jr. since the 2016 Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway last July. He is a two-time Daytona 500 winner. ... Sunday's Daytona 500 was Michael Waltrip's last race. ... The Daytona 500 is the first Cup Series race under NASCAR's new stage format.

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