DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ? It was, for the most part, a typical Kyle Busch performance. The only things missing were the celebratory bow, the trip to victory lane and the trophy.
Busch didn't win. But not for a lack of trying.
In what has become somewhat commonplace, Busch ran strong, made another stunning save when his car broke loose near the front of the pack, and then rallied for a third-place finish in Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
"I really don't know how it all started," Busch said of his save, which came during the third and final segment of the 75-lap non-points event. "I was up top following (Joey) Logano, or he was coming up in front of me. I kind of tried to go back low and get a run off the bottom of the track to pass him and I got clipped and instantly spun out."
Once his car broke sideways, it was a "lot of brake, lot of gas, downshifting, everything in between," he said.
"It always takes about two times to get it kind of squared back up. Once I got going on the apron, I didn't even know where straight was on the steering wheel. I was floating my hands, kind of letting the thing find center by itself. Sometimes you've got to let the car do its own job, too."
Accidents had already trimmed the 18-car field considerably -- half the starters were wiped out in a Lap 36 incident on the frontstretch that halted the race for nearly 11-and-a-half minutes. Getting to the front didn't require passing a lot of cars.
That his car had been damaged in the spin-and-save, however, increased the difficulty, if not the possibility, of Busch doing so. Subsequent pit stops allowed his Joe Gibbs Racing crew to make repairs. Surgery might have been necessary, but Band-Aids were the only items available.
"The nose is pushed way up," Busch said of the damage. "I was walking by it when it was on its way to the (height) sticks; the nose was up about an inch and a half. The rear tailpiece was half drug, which actually may be an advantage to get rid of that piece; (it) slows it down.
"Other than that, just the nose being up, man, kills it so bad. It just slows it down so much. We pulled some packer on one of those pit stops we came in late, tried to get it back down some. I don't know whether it helped or not. I never felt the splitter touch again."
The final restart began with five laps remaining -- Busch sixth and teammate Denny Hamlin just ahead. Hamlin, strong all night, made it all the way to the front with two laps remaining. Busch got to third but no further.
"With only six or seven cars ? there at the end, you can dive bomb each other, you can switch around and all that all you want," Busch said, "just because there's not a big pack of cars where you're going to get swallowed up and back to 30th if you do something wrong.
"It was interesting there at the end ? I don't know that we've ever had so few cars at the end."
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