Coming into the white flag lap, it was a Busch brothers tandem pulling away from the pack. But Joey Logano paired with Trevor Bayne came closing in along the back straightaway, making their move into turn 3, and fans in the grandstands jumped out of their seats. The four were running side-by-side out of turn 4, and from behind came Tony Stewart trying to make a move. Joey Logano went for the block… and chaos ensued.
The ten leader cars got tangled up, Logano turned sideways, Kurt Busch into him, and Bayne into Stewart. And while the crowd was still gasping at the carnage, the 11th driver back was crossing under the checkered flag in first.
It was the second finish in as many days where an unexpected driver took the title at Daytona. Even with a record 38 lead changes, no one predicted James Buescher would capture his first Nationwide win at the infamous Daytona track. But he was able to avoid trouble when other drivers could not, and he walked away with a prized win as a result.
That final wreck was not the only notable wreck of the night. In fact, the Nationwide race was just as crash-marred as last weekend’s Bud Shootout and Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race. All eyes started out on pole-sitter Danica Patrick as she kicked off her first full-time Nationwide season, but on Lap 49, her hopes of a victory were dashed. JR Motorsports teammate Cole Whitt bumped the back of her #7 car, sending it outside the yellow line along the banking between turns 3 and 4. She was unable to pull a Bud-Shootout-style Kyle Busch recovery, instead ramming into the wall and taking right front damage. Her car was beyond repair in the pits and she was sent into the garage and re-entered later on with a new front end, 48 laps down.
The white flag crash was not the only end-of-the-race trouble. Half the field wiped out in turn 4 going into lap 105 of the 120 lap race. After several laps of caution and then a red flag to remove debris lodged into the SAFER barrier, the cars were back to green on lap 112. But it was not long before former IndyCar star and front-runner Sam Hornish Jr. got twisted and came down on the pack, taking several others with him. The race would go back to green with two laps to go before the final white flag demolition.
Most of the Sprint Cup drivers participating finished the Nationwide race in shambles, and some worry this could be a tell-tale sign for Sunday. Danica showed promise until her wipeout, but some still worry Sunday will up her record to 3-for-3 in wrecks on the weekend. Defending Daytona 500 champion Bayne, who shared the front row with Patrick at the start, also fell victim to the destruction. However, he did prove himself resilient after falling two laps down and recovering to be a front-runner at the end.
To say the Drive 4COPD300 was a wild ride would be an understatement. And if the crash-fests and unexpected finishes of the truck race and the Nationwide race are any indication of Sunday’s outcome, there is no telling what could happen. NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Aric Almirola put it best on Twitter today. “I’m guessing Vegas is really stressed out right now,” he said. “How do you put odds on the 500 after the last 2 races?”