DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kyle Busch raced side-by-side with Carl Edwards in the closing laps at Daytona International Speedway, each driver running wide open toward the win.
When a multicar accident brought out the caution behind them, the field was frozen and no one had any idea who won Saturday night's race. After an anxious few moments while NASCAR looked at the ending, Busch was awarded the win.
For Busch, the Sprint Cup Series points leader, it was his sixth Cup win of the year. In all, Busch has 12 victories this season spanning all three of NASCAR's top series.
”I can't believe that we're here right now,“ Busch said in Victory Lane. ”We didn't have the best car. “
Edwards finished second and was disappointed not to have one last lap to finish his race with Busch.
”Man, I hate to lose the thing like that,“ Edwards said.
Matt Kenseth, Edwards' teammate at Roush Fenway Racing, was third. He was followed by Kurt Busch, Roush driver David Ragan and Robby Gordon. Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin rounded out the top 10.
It seemed for a bit that Jeff Gordon was headed to his first victory of the season as he led 46 laps late and was handily holding off Busch as the race wound down. But with four laps to go, Busch pulled inside of Gordon and claimed the lead mere seconds before a multicar accident brought out a caution.
It set up an overtime sprint to the finish, and Edwards said Busch was slow on the restart. It stacked the traffic up behind him and Edwards ran into the back of Gordon, sending him spinning through the grass.
Edwards darted to the outside to move around the action and, with a push from Kenseth, pulled alongside Busch to set up a thrilling drag race. But they didn't get a chance to race to the checkered flag because of contact between Travis Kvapil and Sam Hornish Jr. that triggered a multicar accident that froze the field.
Gordon wound up 30th and was disappointed with the way the final restart played out.
”They got the jump on me,“ Gordon said. ”I tried to block him. Maybe I came across (Edwards') nose. Hard to say. It's unfortunate.“
Tony Stewart, winner of this race in 2005 and 2006, fell ill before the start and had J.J. Yeley on standby in case he couldn't make it to the finish. Stewart drove his car as high as third, but gave up the seat right before the halfway point and Yeley took the car to a 20th-place finish.
■ Jeff Gordon, in position for his 14th victory at Daytona, looked more like a rookie down the stretch.
Edwards apologized for the accident, saying there was little he could do to avoid turning Gordon around.
”He was coming down and doing the best he could I think to get in front of me and he was up against my fender,“ Edwards said. ”I thought that he would turn right at any moment, but that's all that happened there. I don't think he knew I was inside of him.“
■ Several big-name drivers found trouble at Daytona, an all-too-common occurrence at the 2½ -mile superspeedway.
Ryan Newman, who won the season-opening Daytona 500 in February, got spun by Jamie McMurray early. Pole-sitter Paul Menard got his right-rear fender taped drastically to repair body damage.
Greg Biffle and Juan Pablo Montoya wrecked into each other and brushed the wall on lap 70, and both cars ended up in the garage for major repairs.
Even Kyle Busch had trouble early. Busch saved a potential wreck on lap 83 after his car wiggled through a turn, then he dropped to the back of the field and complained that his steering wheel was misaligned.
Newman, two-time defending Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Michael Waltrip were among the many drivers involved in late wrecks.