Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished 15th in the Sprint Unlimited non-points NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway after being caught up in a pair of incidents not of his own making.
Busch earned entry into the exhibition race by being a previous winner (2011) of the Sprint Unlimited, which used to be known as the Budweiser Shootout. Only 2014 pole winners, drivers who were a part of the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, previous pole winners for the Daytona 500 and past winners of the Sprint Unlimited earned entry into the race.
Busch started 13th in the 25-car field after a random draw determined the starting lineup Friday afternoon. Busch was able to capitalize on a strong racecar, steadily advancing throughout opening laps. A lap-23 accident involving the No. 2 of Brad Keselowski saw the first segment end under the caution flag, with Busch scored sixth.
After making a pit stop under the caution period to take on four tires and fuel, Busch lined up in the eighth position to start the second segment. He’d worked his way to the fifth position when a multicar incident occurred in front of his No. 41 Chevrolet on lap 46 that proved unavoidable for the 2004 Sprint Cup champion. Busch brought his battered racecar to the attention of the Haas Automation crew, where major repairs were made in an effort to get Busch back on track with as competitive a racecar as they could give him.
The No. 41 team was penalized for having too many men over the pit wall, and as a result Busch took the restart from the rear of the field. Busch was able to overcome the penalty, breaking back inside the top-10 just seven laps later. As he continued his climb toward the front of the field, another accident occurred in front of his red-and-black machine on lap 68, and Busch again was caught in the melee. Unfortunately, the damage sustained was too severe to be repaired in the handful of laps that remained, relegating him to a 15th-place finish.
“The No. 16 (Greg Biffle) and the No. 14 (Tony Stewart) came together,” Busch said. “I had a choice to make to go left or to go right. I went left, and then everybody else ended up left. Sometimes cars spin around and go to the outside wall when they are coming off of turn two. The guys put me back out there after a lot of crash damage from before when (Jamie) McMurray and (Paul) Menard got together. So those guys got together running third and fourth, and I was running fifth. These guys were probably running third to fourth, and I was about 10th. The moral of the story is the guys that are running third to fourth are pushing really hard to crack through and lead. That’s what I am seeing. There is a congestion point in second to fifth.”