The 2017 Daytona 500 was not short on excitement, with plenty of wrecks throughout the race.
Unexpectedly, the finish was decided by fuel mileage as two leaders ran out of gas, paving the way for Kurt Busch to earn his first Daytona 500 win.
Kurt Busch wins fuel mileage race
While the Daytona 500 has become known for the victor being the driver who survived and had the best move at the end, this year’s race turned out differently. With no cautions in the final 45 laps and the fuel window being 40-44 laps, it transformed into a mileage test.
Chase Elliott appeared poised to get his first victory at the biggest race of the season, but the No. 24 team was unable to stretch their fuel to make it to the end. After Elliott’s bobble, another young driver went to the top in Kyle Larson. He, too, ran out of gas, this time on the last lap down the backstretch. Kurt Busch, who was running second, inherited the lead and held off Ryan Blaney and AJ Allmendinger for victory.
It was a long time coming for Kurt Busch, who attempted winning the 500 15 previous times. He finished second three times, but was never able to get the win until this year. This was also crew chief Tony Gibson’s first Daytona 500 victory in a 15-year career.
Pit strategies fail to pan out
In the first race under the new rules concerning race stages, teams were already testing new pit strategies to get the most points possible.
Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing stopped 18 laps into Stage 1, counting on not stopping again if the stage were to go green. However, their plan failed to give them an advantage due to errors. Rookies Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones both missed their pit stalls the first time through. When coming in the second time, Suarez also incurred a speeding penalty, putting him two laps down early on. Matt Kenseth locked up his wheels on the initial two-tire stop, meaning he also had to make a second trip.
Ultimately the day didn’t play out as they hoped as on Lap 106, Kyle Busch was running in front of Kenseth and Jones when a tire went down, triggering a six-car wreck including others like Dale Earnhardt Jr. All four Gibbs cars were involved in at least one wreck, and the highest finisher was Denny Hamlin in 17th.
Jr.’s wreck headlines Hendrick struggles
Hendrick Motorsports was another team that struggled throughout Sunday’s race. Earnhardt was the first of three drivers involved in an incident. Though Elliott recovered to compete for the win late in the race, Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson’s teams were unable to repair the cars and retired to the garage.
Kasey Kahne ended up with the highest finish at Hendrick, coming home seventh. He was one of only five cars that were not involved in any wreck, and he led seven laps.
Lots of wrecks, but not because of rule changes
Some thought the introduction of stages into NASCAR races would lead to increased wrecks at the end of each stages. There were indeed many accidents in the 500, but none were near the conclusion of Stages 1 or 2. There was only one single-car incident, when Corey LaJoie lost control coming to pit road and hit the wall on Lap 32.
The biggest wreck of the day came four laps into the final stage when Johnson spun after contact from Jamie McMurray. Seventeen cars received some damage during this incident.
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KaseyMcNerney
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.