James Buescher emerged as the winner of Saturday's DRIVE4COPD 300 Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway, but don't ask him how he managed it.
"I somehow snuck through there and beat everybody through and dodged all the bullets," said Buescher, after claiming his first victory in Nationwide in 35 starts. "It's hard to describe the feeling when you make it through and you're the only guy coming to the chequered flag."
It really was lonely at the top for Buescher, who entered the final turn running at the back of the lead pack and outside the top ten, but seconds later was pretty much the last man standing. That was after the the most brutal accident of the race wiped out pretty much all of the leaders.
Polesitter Danica Patrick had led the field to green at the start of the race, and while she soon fell back from the front she was still dealing pretty well with the intriguing mix of pack and two-car tandem drafting that started to emerge. She lost touch with her various drafting partners from time to time but seemed to have good speed even when running solo, and was still well in the action by lap 49.
Unfortunately at that point her team mate for the afternoon, Cole Whitt, tried to link up with her for some drafting - and misjudged it. He bumped her several times through the turn, and the #7 lost stability and dipped down to the infield apron. Patrick tried to correct, and the car took off up the high banking and into the wall. The right front of the car was a mess, and Patrick limped back to the garage for repairs that took most of the rest of the race. Although she managed to return to the track near the end, she was classified with a 38th place finish.
Her team radio was apparently Not Fit For Broadcast as she made clear how unhappy she was with Whitt's actions. She stayed away from the media that swarmed around the JR Motorsports garage until she had cooled down, and by the time she spoke to the press she was able to take a cooler line.
"I don't think it's ever great when teammates come together, so we'll have to figure out what happened and move forward," she said simply. "We were just doing big pack racing and went down into three, got a little tap, got a little bit sideways, saved it, and then just got hit again and couldn't save it."
“There's not much to really tell her,” said Whitt in turn. "I got into the back of her ... I was just trying to get hooked up in a two-car tandem," he explained. "I got hold of her once on the backstretch and she got off, and tried to get back [to me] and when I got into her, it probably was too late on the straightway, enough to turn her around."
It had been the 19-year-old's first restrictor plate race in a Nationwide car at Daytona and he wasn't blaming Danica for of it. For his part, he said: "Obviously it wasn't intentional."