Kurt Busch was hoping that victory for the #1 Phoenix Racing car on Friday night at Daytona international Speedway might rustle up some sponsorship for the car in the near future, after the conspicuously bright orange and very battered car won the Subway Jalapeno 250 for owner James Finch.
"It's just the energy James Finch has for Daytona, he wanted his cars orange so they could be seen up front so that car could be recognized without a sponsor on it," said the ecstatic driver after a famous win in the car that he'd dubbed 'the great pumpkin' during the week. "And we drove an unsponsored car into victory lane tonight!"
Busch had already been to victory lane once in 2012, but that had been in the Kyle Busch Motorsport #54 car. This was his first win in Nationwide for his regular Cup team, Phoenix Racing, and came just weeks after his relationship with Finch and the organisation was put under strain after his latest brush with NASCAR authority saw him suspended from racing for a week after making comments to the media while under probation.
All that was forgotten on Friday night, however, when Busch claimed the chequered flag in Daytona - thanks in no small part to a final push from late drafting partner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. which put them ahead of Michael Annett and Austin Dillon. Busch's margin of victory over Stenhouse was ultimately listed as just 0.054s.
The race saw six cautions during its sub-two hour running time, and the number of lead changes was a new record at 42 and the number of different leaders on Friday equalled the existing record of 16.
Stenhouse Jr. had started from pole position after Austin Dillon's qualifying time was disallowed for a technical infringement and the #3 sent to the back for the start of the race. Stenhouse Jr. paired up with Danica Patrick for drafting, but the pair were quickly passed by Cole Whitt being pushed by Kevin Harvick down the backstraight.
Joey Lgano and Elliott Sadler had also paired up and took the lead on lap 4, while Kurt Busch found an early boost from his brother Kyle but the two failed to go in front before the first caution of the evening for the stalled #11 car of Brian Scott.
Penske team mates Sam Hornish Jr and Brad Keselowski paired up to take the lead for the restart, but Keselowski ended up switching to support Danica Patrick when she burst through into the lead on lap 18. The Busch boys took over for a period, with Mike Wallace and Kevin Harvick taking over briefly when climbing engine temperatures forced the brothers to switch running order on lap 31.
It was Wallace who triggered the second caution of the night when he spun in turn 2 on lap 41, and the Busch's teamwork was hit by a pit lane penalty for Kyle when a tyre got away from a crew member and the #54 got served with a drive-thru penalty. That left Kurt casting around for a new partner and he found it in the form of Austin Dillon who was back in the top four after his back row start.