DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Kyle Busch used a perfectly timed pass to edge Timothy Peters in the final few feet to win the NASCAR Truck Series season opener Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.
Peters was leading coming out of the final turn and did all he could to block Busch, even nearly forcing him into the wall. But Busch didn’t blink and drove by Peters just before the finish line.
It was Busch’s 36th Truck Series victory and first at Daytona.
“Well, it sounds awesome,” said Busch, admitting he would rather be a Daytona 500 winner. “This has been eluding me. I finally got one.”
Busch gave Toyota its eighth consecutive Truck Series win at Daytona. It also was the automaker’s fourth victory in four races during Speedweeks.
Johnny Sauter was third, followed by Ryan Truex, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Ryan Blaney. Defending series champion Matt Crafton was 13th.
This one will be remembered for the finish, which was the series’ closest in 15 years at Daytona. It was the eighth-closest margin in series history.
“I thought I was going to throw it out there and see what happens,” Busch said.
Peters and Busch both figured the leader would be a sitting duck in the final lap. Still, they both wondered how it would play out: Busch thought he waited too long to make his move, and Peters questioned letting Busch create enough space to make a big run.
“You never want to be the bridesmaid, especially when you’ve been to Victory Lane here before,” said Peters, who won the 2010 opener. “Second place at Daytona isn’t too bad. Kyle timed it right. I went up and tried to block it.”
The race was delayed more than an hour after showers soaked the 2 1/2-mile superspeedway.
When the green flag finally dropped, the trucks raced relatively incident-free for 73 laps. But then like it happens so often at high-banked Daytona, a huge wreck wiped out a large portion of the field.
Ross Chastain started the 17-truck melee when he tagged Parker Kligerman from behind. Kligerman’s truck turned sideways, sliding into Mason Mingus. Mingus turned hard right and slammed into the wall. He bounced back across traffic, collecting several others in his wake.
“There really wasn’t anywhere for us to go,” Mingus said. “Unfortunately, we destroyed a really good truck.”
Darrell Wallace, John King, John Wes Townley, Joey Coulter, Brennan Newberry and Ben Kennedy also were involved. None of the drivers was hurt.
Kennedy, the great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., was making his Daytona debut. Kennedy, who ran five races in the Truck Series last season, led the first 52 laps before stalling while driving off pit road.
The mistake dropped Kennedy from first to eighth on the restart. He dropped back a few more spots from there, and was in the wrong place when the big one happened.
Peters, too, was in the wrong place – leading in the final lap.
“Oh-so-close,” he said. “Kind of kicking myself a little bit. He’s Kyle Busch. I should have done a better job of backing up to him. That’s the thing that stings. I got too far out. The bright side is he’s leading the owner’s points, but we’re leading the driver’s points.”