Kyle Busch in the Joe Gibbs Toyota took the lead of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Duel at Daytona Two after green-flag pit stops in the otherwise uninterrupted sixty lap race, and held off a charging Kasey Kahne’s Hendricks Chevrolet to win by .09 seconds at the finish line. It was the second Duel win for Busch.
When asked by ESPN what he had learned in the Duel to apply to Sunday’s Daytona 500, Busch replied: “It’s hard to pass the leader. Just stay out front when you can get out front you can run pretty good and just try to hold everybody off behind you.
“There wasn’t enough lane-by-lane racing here but it’s awesome to be able to put the M&Ms Camry in Victory lane. You used those tools to your advantage as best you can when you learn what’s going on when the race is around you.”
Busch emphasized that running the low line simply didn’t work in the Duel.
“I think we saw a lot of that with the 27 car [Paul Menard], trying to make the bottom come up, but he never could get it to go.
“I tried to there that one time—everybody was checking up getting into the corners and I knew there wasn’t a gap for me to get back in but I thought ‘Maybe if I side-draft the 31 [Jeff Burton] enough I can pull him back and get up into line and I can start making moves that way’—but it didn’t work like that.”
It was the pit stop which made the difference, said Busch. While many cars came in too hot and had to brake hard, Busch entered smoothly, preserving his tires.
“Coming to pit road there, that’s what won us the race being able to beat those guys [who were] overbraking getting into the pits and not sliding any tires so we could take that advantage, to not have to take any tires under the piti stop,” Busch explained. “[Crew chief] Dave Rogers made a great call there to just take fuel only, and get us out front.”
The most surprising part of the race was the performance of 22-year-old Daytona rookie Austin Dillon, who earned a top-five finish and a starting spot in Sunday’s Daytona 500.
“We just stayed in it all day and rode that top line ran behind Kasey [Kahne] the whole time” Dillon told ESPN. “I was waiting for a Chevy to get into victory lane right there, but just couldn’t get enough of a run at Kyle—his car’s really good. This is an awesome feeling and I’ll always remember the first one.”
The young rookie already has his Daytona 500 strategy prepared: “This thing’s all about being there at the en—go into conservation mode early and then get ‘em at the end.”
Kyle Busch’s team mate Matt Kenseth was running second entering the final lap, with Kahne and Dillon behind. Kahne moved low and swept by Kenseth with Dillon tight on his tail. Kenseth lost the draft and dropped to fifth behind Clint Bowyer.
Fellow Hendricks driver Jeff Gordon started from the pole and ran up front until a pit-lane speeding penalty sent him to 14th with 18 laps left.
Josh Wise finished 16th, transferring to Sunday’s Daytona 500 grid.
Besides Kasey Kahne’s late move there wasn’t a lot of passing at the front of the field in either of the two duels. “With this car you can’t get within four feet of each other so it’s a little harder to make moves,” Busch told ESPN. Gone are the days of two-car teams pushing each other to the lead—now it seems that until the teams learn some new tricks, the recipe for winning is to start a train in the top lane and just chug on.
The front four for the Daytona 500 will be Danica Patrick, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, who won the first Duel, and Kyle Busch. Harvick is probably the fastest of the four, but since the Gen-Six car is brand new, no one knows how it will react through the changing temperatures of 200 laps on Sunday.
The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season starts officially with the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Tickets are available through NASCAR.com.
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