Kyle Busch streaks past Elliott, Blaney to win Busch Clash

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Kyle Busch celebrates on the top of his car after winning the NASCAR Clash auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kyle Busch snagged the first win of the new season, streaking past NASCAR champion Chase Elliott after Elliott spun leader Ryan Blaney in the final stretch of the exhibition Busch Clash.

Blaney had chased down Elliott on the road course at Daytona International Speedway to take the lead with two laps remaining in Tuesday night's 35-lap Speedweeks opener. Elliott, winner of NASCAR's last four road course races dating to 2019, didn't let Blaney pull away and set himself up for one final chance at the win.

He stalked Blaney into the chicane headed into the turn four final push and as Elliott closed in on his bumper, the two made contact and Blaney spun into the wall. It cost Elliott his momentum and Busch sailed by for the surprise victory.

“I just knew to keep my head down and keep focus ahead and just seeing if I could hit my marks to have a shot like that if something like that were to materialize,” Busch said.

Busch led only the final 300 or so feet of the race for the victory for Joe Gibbs Racing. It was Busch’s second win in the exhibition — he also used a last-lap pass to win in 2012 — and the 10th for Gibbs. JGR also won last season's Clash.

For Busch, the win comes after a disappointing one-win season for the 2019 NASCAR champion. He struggled in the second half of the season, failed to advance to the final four championship round for the first time since 2014 and his No. 18 Toyota crew was overhauled during the winter.

Gibbs made so many changes to Busch's crew, he joked he felt like he'd been the one fired and moved to a new ride.

“I’m not sure that we’re mature enough or we’re ready enough in order to win as a group, but I feel like this is a good start," Busch said. “Winning never hurts anything, but there is some stuff for us to get a little bit better on, for us to grow on.”