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James Buescher wins Nationwide race at Daytona

Buescher avoids crash on last lap and picks up his first series victory. Pole-sitter Danica Patrick gets bumped into wall and finishes 38th.

February 25, 2012|By Matt Murschel

Reporting from Daytona Beach, Fla. -- James Buescher avoided the third major crash of the race on the final lap and won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

"They all piled up in front of me, and we made it through," Buescher said after the Drive4COPD 300. "It's hard to describe the feeling when you make it through the wreck and you're the only guy."

Buescher, 31, maneuvered his No. 30 Chevrolet through an 11-car wreck in Turn 4 that knocked out the lead cars and opened the door for him to claim his first NASCAR Nationwide Series win.

"It's hard to put into words," said Buescher, who is running a partial schedule and is ineligible for series points.

Brad Keselowski, who wrecked in the Truck Series race Friday night, had much better luck Saturday.

"The wreck was huge for us in the end," said Keselowski, who is also running a partial series season. "I feel like I won the lottery to just finish third."

Actually, it was second. After reviewing the tape, NASCAR determined Keselowski finished ahead of Elliott Sadler, who finished third.

"It was normal Daytona," said Sadler, who took over the early points lead in the series. "It was all luck."

Under partly cloudy skies and cooler temperatures, the estimated crowd of 82,000 spent most of the race waiting for that one big wreck, and Daytona didn't disappoint.

A multicar wreck on Lap 103 involving 19 cars was the first of three major wrecks — including the final one — which took its toll on the 43-car field in the 120-lap, 300-mile race.

That wreck forced NASCAR to red-flag the race to clean up the debris.

After the restart, caution came out again when 14 cars hooked up 10 laps later on Turn 4, forcing the field to regroup.

The race featured eight cautions, including one that took out Danica Patrick.

Patrick, competing in her first full season in the series, started the race on the pole, but her day went downhill from there.

Her No. 7 Chevrolet got bumped into the wall by Cole Whitt on lap 49.

She managed to get her car back to pit row before her crew pushed it back to the garage to make major repairs. She returned to the track on Lap 96 and finished in 38th place.

"More than anything, I'm just frustrated because the GoDaddy.com car was just so fast, and I could keep up with tandem cars in front of me all by myself," Patrick said. "I thought it was a lot of fun and quite chaotic up until the end. Hopefully, the fans were entertained."

Defending champion Tony Stewart appeared to be on his way to the record books with his seventh Nationwide Series win at Daytona — tying a record held by Dale Earnhardt — however, the 40-year-old got caught up with Kurt and Kyle Busch in the final-lap crash.

"We got a big run on the outside, and all of a sudden the door got slammed on us," said Stewart, who finished in eighth place. "I don't know why whoever it was turned right, but it wasn't a very good time to either try blocking or moving."

Kurt Busch finished in 10th place, with brother Kyle finishing 18th.

mmurschel@tribune.com

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