DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Matt Kenseth can add another Daytona victory to his resume.
Pushed by James Buescher on a green-white-checkered finish, Buescher pushed Kenseth all the way to the checkered flag, unable to make his own move for the win because his engine was about to expire. It’s Kenseth’s first Nationwide Series victory of the season and his second at Daytona.
“We had a decent car. We didn’t qualify quite as we hoped, but we got in the race and it drafted really well,” said Kenseth.
“James was back there by himself and slowed up and grabbed him and our two cars together with him pushing my car were incredibly fast. Once we got hooked up with him I felt we had a shot, but yet these races are usually so crazy and there’s so much stuff at the end that gets tore up, you’re not sure what’s going to happen.”
The 12th annual Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona started with Austin Dillon on the pole for the sixth time in the last seven races. Dillon was also one of four drivers eligible for the Dash 4 Cash program, a $100,000 payday to the highest finisher, joining Elliott Sadler, Brian Vickers and Kyle Larson.
At the drop of the green flag Dillon’s lead lasted until turn three, rookie Travis Pastrana led the first lap. And as has become accustomed in the NNS, the field quickly found their drafting partners and began the tandem style racing.
Partners such as Penske teammates Joey Logano and Sam Hornish Jr., who combine led a race high 64 of 101 laps and appeared to be the ones to beat. Hornish lost his drafting help on the final restart and faded to a seventh place finish. He remains second in the championship standings, now six markers behind Regan Smith.
The race featured only four cautions but just one for a crash on the track. Pastrana and Cole Whitt got together with four laps to, triggering a crash that collected Robert Richardson, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Jason White. White climbed from his mangled machine and briefly went to the ground before walking to the ambulance. He was later released from the care center and told reporters the wind had been knocked out of him.
When the race restarted for the final time Kenseth, who had taken the lead right before the caution, and Buescher broke from the field to settle the race amongst themselves. While it was Kenseth’s 27th career victory it was the first for crew chief Matt Lucas.
The battle for third was a little more frantic; the pack ran seemingly three-wide until the checkered flag. Sadler prevailed and grabbed the $100,000 bonus in the Dash 4 Cash.
“Very happy about our performance tonight,” Sadler said afterwards. “What Nationwide Insurance does for our series — this Dash 4 Cash is a great program. Tonight we had an in-car camera in our car and that brings a lot of exposure to our race team. It brings a lot of exposure to our racecar. It brings a lot of exposure to our sponsors. This is a big, big program for our series.”
Kurt Busch and Austin Dillon rounded out the top five. Running the green and yellow City Chevrolet paint scheme from the movie Days of Thunder, it was Busch who provided some of the lighter moments during the night. He and the No. 1 crew threw out lines from the movie and referred to Kurt as Cole Trickle, even eating ice cream in the pit area during one caution.
Kyle Larson, who stole headlines in February with his scary crash into the frontstretch fence, was the highest finishing rookie. He came home sixth.
The drivers eligible in next weekend’s Dash 4 Cash program will again be Sadler, Larson, Dillon and Hornish. New Hampshire is the next stop on the Nationwide Series tour.