Chase Elliott turned Ryan Blaney in the frontstretch chicane on the final lap, opening the door for Kyle Busch to steal the win in the 2021 Busch Clash.
Blaney got around Elliott, the 2020 Cup Series champion, with one of 35 laps to go in the non-points event but was unable to drive away from him.
As the two approached the frontstretch chicane before the finish line, Elliott appeared to drive into the right side of Blaney’s No. 12 Ford, which sent him for a spin. Elliott also lost momentum which allowed then-third-place Busch to claim the win.
The victory was the 10th in the preseason event for Joe Gibbs Racing – the most of any organization.
“I just knew to keep my head down and keep focused ahead and just seeing if I could hit my marks to see if I could get close enough to have a shot like that if something like that were to materialize,” Busch said.
“Fortunately, it did for us. It’s awesome to start off a year with a win – a non-points win but I’d love nothing more to be here again this Sunday.”
Joey Logano finished third, Tyler Reddick fourth and William Byron rallied from losing a tire to finish fifth. Blaney ended up 13th.
It was the first time in the history of the event the race was held on the road course rather than the superspeedway.
“It’s nice to have good runs. Obviously, winning cures all. I’m not sure that we’re mature enough or we’re ready enough in order to win as a group, but I feel like this is a good start anyways. Obviously, winning never hurts anything, but there is some stuff for us to get a little bit better on, for us to grow on,” Busch said. “This is a good start. Doing the work that we did to prepare for this event and getting us in the right spot to be able to win tonight was what its all about. Good all around.”
Following pit stops during the competition caution break, Kurt Busch was the first off pit road and led the way when the race returned to green on Lap 18.
Busch overshot Turn 1 on the restart which allowed Denny Hamlin to return to the lead.
On Lap 22, NASCAR issued a caution as Cole Custer came to a stop after missing the frontstretch chicane but was unable to get his No. 41 Ford refired.
Also during the caution, the left-rear tire came off Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet forcing him to make another pit stop.
When the race restarted on Lap 25, Hamlin led the way followed by Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon.
With 10 laps remaining, Hamlin maintained a small lead over Martin Truex Jr. with Blaney moving into third.
On Lap 28, Truex got around Hamlin exiting the infield course to reclaim the lead and Blaney moved into second.
Exiting the backstretch chicane, Truex spun and slammed the wall to bring out a caution. Blaney inherited the race lead followed by Hamlin and Elliott.
Several lead-lap cars elected to pit but Elliott remained on the track and took over the race lead for the first time on Lap 30.
On Lap 32, Blaney moved into second, trailing Elliott by about a second.
With one lap to go, Blaney powered around Elliott in the infield course to retake the lead.
Truex was the leader when the first competition caution was displayed but he failed to drive through the frontstretch chicane under caution and was forced to restart from the rear of the field.
“I don’t know why I did that. That’s a terrible job. I’m sorry,” Truex said over his radio.
Hamlin ran second when the caution came out and Aric Almirola third.
Blaney started on the pole but Hamlin got around him to grab the lead on Lap 1 as they drove out of the infield and back onto the superspeedway.
On Lap 3, Kevin Harvick spun around exiting the bus stop and ended up in the grass. He was able to continue without a caution.
With 10 laps until the competition caution, Hamlin maintained about a 1.47-second lead over Blaney while Alex Bowman remained in third.
On Lap 6, both Logano and Kurt Busch elected to make a pit stop while Matt DiBenedetto missed the frontstretch chicane but served his stop-and-go penalty.
A caution was displayed on Lap 8 for debris on the track. During the caution, several of the lead-lap cars pit including Hamlin, which turned the lead over to Blaney.
The race returned to green on Lap 11. Both Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Logano had to restart from the rear for having crew members over the wall too soon during their respective pit stops.
Blaney overshot the entrance to Turn 1, which allowed Reddick to claim the lead. Brad Keselowski got around Reddick entering Turn 1 on Lap 12 to take the lead for the first time as Hamlin moved into second.
Hamlin powered around Keselowski to retake the lead in superspeedway Turn 1 as Truex moved into second. Truex went to the inside of Hamlin off superspeedway Turn 4 and moved into the top spot for the first time.
Bowman, among those who pit before the start of the final lap of the first stage, was penalized by NASCAR for speeding on pit road.
Elliott, who was scheduled to start seventh, had to drop to the rear of the field at the start of the race for unapproved adjustments to his No. 9 Chevrolet.
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