After three runner-up finishes, Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500 for the first time in his illustrious career Sunday. It was his first win in 32 races at Daytona International Speedway.
“It’s surreal and it’s magical,” Busch said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Daytona is the most prestigious stock car race there is, and we won it. It really reminds me a lot of winning the championship years ago. It’s like a championship wrapped into 10 days, whereas winning the overall championship is a 10-week run, so very similar. I’m very blessed and happy that this happened for Stewart-Haas Racing, and to do it in our first race back with Ford – it was like a homecoming for me going back to Ford this year.”
Busch, 38, led for just one lap: the last one.
“My game plan was to just take advantage of other people’s mistakes, ride the high line, and with all the damage on my car, I really couldn’t lead all that well,” Busch said. “I could follow really well, but I couldn’t lead. I said, ‘You know what? I got one move to make, and I’m going to make it off turn two on the last lap.’”
Accidents occurred early and often at Daytona, as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Danica Patrick were all forced out of action.
“It’s all about the chess match at Daytona,” Busch said. “It’s survival. The way that Daytona keeps unfolding, you got to protect your car and stay out of trouble. Man, wrecks, wrecks, wrecks – it happened again, and we were able to just minimize our damage and pull off the victory. You’re just focused on the car.”
Tony Stewart, who finished runner-up at Daytona in 2004, was thrilled that one of his drivers won the event.
“He was really, really happy for all of his people, and of course for myself,” Busch said. “Tony Stewart is a great car owner, and he’s very passionate about the people that he’s hired, and he’s really genuinely happy for them to experience this type of win.”
Busch is thrilled to win Daytona, but he hopes to win more races later this season.
“It’s a matter of staying focused and getting after the task at hand, which is Atlanta this weekend and all of the mile-and-a-half tracks coming up, staying focused on any race in the beginning of the year that has a Chase race attached to it,” Busch said. “We’re going to get after it. There’s plenty of work to be done.”