Sunday, February 19, 2017

CUP: Kurt Busch’s Monster Energy Ford finishes last in title sponsor’s first race

SOURCE: Sporting News
Kurt Busch finished last in Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash at the Daytona International Speedway when his #41 Monster Energy / HAAS Ford was involved in a multi-car accident after 16 of 75 laps.

Sunday’s race marked Busch’s fourteenth appearance in the Clash and his first in a Ford since 2005.  Stewart-Haas Racing announced the manufacturer switch last year after eight seasons with Chevrolet.  Busch would be joined by two of his three teammates in the Clash – fellow 2016 Chase driver Kevin Harvick and 2013 Daytona 500 polesitter Danica Patrick.  Clint Bowyer, now behind the wheel of Tony Stewart’s #14, was not permitted in the 17-car field.

Busch did not participate in Friday’s opening practice for the Clash and ran just 12th in the second session.  He was awarded the 10th spot in the field by random draw.  

Starting 17th and last in Sunday’s event, postponed from Saturday night by rain, was Chris Buescher.  The winner last August at Pocono who squeezed his way into the Chase, Buescher moved from Front Row Motorsports to JTG-Daugherty Racing, debuting JTG’s first-ever second team.  An arrangement had been worked out where Buescher would drive for JTG for one year, and his #37 Kroger Click List Chevrolet would be locked-in to each race using the Charter from Roush-Fenway’s closed #16 team.  The expectation is that Buescher will again drive a Ford in 2018.

When the green flag flew, Buescher got a slow start, and by the time the field entered the backstretch, he had already lost the draft.  Completely alone, Buescher was 1.672 seconds behind the leader at the end of Lap 1, 11.69 seconds behind by Lap 12, and 21.66 seconds back on Lap 16.  The remainder of the Top 16 stayed close together in a two and three-wide pack until trouble broke out.

On Lap 16, Kurt Busch was running 11th when Jimmie Johnson broke loose coming off Turn 4.  His #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet cut hard to the left, clipping the right-rear of Busch’s Ford.  The contact hooked Busch hard to the right, sending him head-on into the outside wall.  His black machine careened into the grass, digging up the turf before sliding to a stop.  Busch was uninjured, but he was done for the day.  The caution prevented Buescher from losing a lap, and he went on to finish a surprising 9th.

Johnson finished next-to-last, his damaged car losing control in the same spot on Lap 48 and slamming the inside wall.  It was his sixth-consecutive DNF in the Clash.  Rounding out the Bottom Five were Martin Truex, Jr., whose #78 5-hour Energy Extra Strength Toyota crossed the nose of 14th-place Kyle Larson’s #42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet.  Reports indicate that Larson retired soon after because too many crewmen came over the wall to repair his #42, though the listed cause is "damage."  13th-place Denny Hamlin was actually leading on the final lap, but took himself out blocking Brad Keselowski’s bid for the lead.  Hamlin’s damaged #11 FedEx Express Toyota stopped halfway down the backstretch. 

*This marked the first last-place finish for both Busch and the #41 in the Clash at Daytona.  It is also the second in a row for Stewart-Haas Racing, joining Kevin Harvick last year.

17) #41-Kurt Busch / 16 laps / crash
16) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 48 laps / crash
15) #78-Martin Truex, Jr. / 60 laps / crash
14) #42-Kyle Larson / 61 laps / damage
13) #11-Denny Hamlin / 74 laps / running / led 48 laps

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