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NASCAR Cup: Erik Jones wins crash-filled Busch Clash

DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 09: Erik Jones, driver of the #20 Sport Clips Toyota, celebrates winning the NASCAR Cup Series Busch Clash at Daytona International Speedway on February 09, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

In a severely damaged race car, Erik Jones took the lead in turn four of the final lap of the Busch Clash at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Sunday to win the exhibition race that started with 18 drivers but saw only six cars on the track at the checkered flag.

“Well, not what I would’ve thought we’d want,” Jones said. “It was an awesome race. I’ve got to give a huge thanks to Denny (Hamlin), there, in the 11. He stuck with us, there, that whole last lap. This thing wasn’t the fastest car, I don’t think, left in the race, but we brought it home. I owe him one for that one for sure. Really cool, though. I mean Busch Clash, first year back, to win that, that feels good and with SportClips, again. These guys have been really loyal to me the last few years, so it’s cool to get them another win and, hopefully, next Sunday, we cap off another one right here.”

The last lap was the only lap Jones led in the race, taking the lead with an assist in the form of a push from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and 2019 Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was one lap down after his involvement in one of several late-race, multi-car crashes but finished sixth.

“It’s so awesome. I mean, I knew he needed to strap in, because that last, lap I was going to push him,” Hamlin said. “I didn’t care if  I was going to push him into a wreck. I was just going to push him. It was fun. I mean, my car was so, so fast. Proud of the effort there. Glad we got a team win. I mean, that’s all I could really do at the end was push him to victory.”

All the cars still in the race in the final laps that was extended by three overtimes were damaged in at least one late-race incident. Austin Dillon finished second, Clint Bowyer was third, Kyle Larson was fourth, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five.

The race was extended to 88 laps, making it the longest, ever, Busch Clash.

The race ran incident-free for most of its 75-lap scheduled distance with the yellow flag waving only once for a competition caution after the completion of lap 25 before the first multi-car crash that began as Kyle Busch attempted to take the lead from Joey Logano on lap 66. As they wrecked, Brad Keselowski and others were collected.

“I was going to look low, but I knew he was driving low, so then I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to go high,’ and then, he drove up the race track in front of me and then I was like, ‘Okay, now I’ve got to cut back down and cut low.’ When I did, I touched him just a little bit, which then, turned his car, and then, we were just sandwiched, and the wreck was on,” Busch said. “I don’t know. Either you can race or you can wreck. The reason why we ride in single file is because we don’t know how to race. Just a product of a few bad decisions, there, and we’re all crashed.”

More drivers wrecked on the resulting restart with three laps remaining of the scheduled race distance. That wreck, then, resulted in the first overtime restart. On that restart, Hamlin sustained damage from a push that caused a cut tire and another multi-car crash brought another caution and a red flag.

After the red flag, Chase Elliott pitted with a flat tire and with new tires pushed Larson to the lead on the next restart. Then, they wrecked and more cars were collected, resulting in another caution and, ultimately, in the six-car finish.

Jones was involved in at least two of the late-race incidents.

“Yeah, it’s pretty bad, but the Camry kept running strong,” Jones said. “We came down and didn’t really know what we were trying to fix. I couldn’t see it, but could tell the hood was pretty torn up, and the right front was, as well. I didn’t know it was that bad, to be honest with you, until now, but it sure feels good to come out of here with a win, especially in a race with perseverance like that. You don’t want to give up, and when it pays off in the end, it makes it extra special.”

Keselowski led a race-high 33 laps before the late-race carnage. He first took the lead on lap 10 and ran up front until Ford and Toyota drivers opted to pit before the competition caution. Chevrolet drivers stayed out, instead, pitting during the caution and, then, making an additional stop under the caution to top-off their fuel cells with plans to stay out the remaining distance.

Keselowski was back up front for the restart and led most of the laps before the Toyota and Ford drivers pitted, again, around lap 46. Chevrolet drivers William Byron, Larson, Elliott and Alex Bowman took turns up front before Joey Logano led Ford’s drive back to the front on lap 59. The Chevrolet teams scrapped their plans to stay out when the yellow flag waved for the second caution.

Below, is the complete finishing order of Sunday’s Busch Clash at Daytona International Speedway:

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Posted by on February 9, 2020. Filed under Breaking News,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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