DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Erik Jones was involved in two late-race crashes, went a lap down at one point, then got a last-lap push by teammate Denny Hamlin to win a war of attrition known as the Busch Clash in triple overtime.
“It was kind of crazy,” said Joe Gibbs, who is the car owner for Jones and Hamlin.
Jones’ No. 20 Toyota looked like it belonged in a junk yard rather than a NASCAR Cup Series race. He got the better of the remaining survivors thanks to Hamlin, who was lap down and could not win.
“It was an awesome race,” Jones said. “I got to give a huge thanks to Denny there in the No. 11 team. He stuck with us there that whole last lap.
“It wasn’t the fastest car I don’t think left in the race, but we brought it home. I owe him one for that one, for sure.”
Erik Jones celebrates after winning The Busch Clash at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo: Mike Dinovo, USA TODAY Sports)
The Clash was scheduled for 75 laps but a series of big wrecks decimated the 18-car field and left only five stock cars on the lead lap to scramble to the checkered flag displayed on Lap 88.
Austin Dillon, whose No. 3 Chevrolet looked pristine compared to the cars around him, was leading at the restart but got no help in the last-laps draft.
Hamlin, who was a lap down in his No. 11 Toyota, stayed on Daytona International Speedway’s 2.5-mile tri-oval to lend Jones a hand in crunch time.
“I didn’t care if I pushed him into a wreck,” Hamlin said. “I knew I just needed to push him.”
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Jones, who won the 2018 Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona in 2018, took Joe Gibbs Racing to a new record. Gibbs now has won the Clash a record nine times.
The estimated 25,000 spectators got their money’s worth, including 13 overtime laps and a huge crash near the start-finish line on a late restart.
Another one. pic.twitter.com/Si2ujBOpJn
As the field thinned, it seemed like the drivers were willing to take more chances, such as when Kyle Larson tried to block a run on Chase Elliott on Lap 83 in Turn 3. They crashed to set up the final overtime period.
“The No. 9 (Elliott) and No. 42 (Larson), those cars were the only ones with no damage,” said Clint Bowyer, who finished third. “They should have won the race, but they took each other out.”
Aaaaannnnnddddd … Another one. Chase Elliott’s day ends in Clash overtime. pic.twitter.com/cY7CX5gIhw
From Lap 69 to the extended finish, there were four yellow — and one red — flag periods.
The Clash was the longest one (time-wise) on record. It took 1 hour, 39 minutes and 57 seconds to get this race in the books. The previous longest race was 1:39:07 in 2012 won by Kyle Busch.
“This was a wild race,” Gibbs said. “This may never happen again.”
Because he was a lap down, Hamlin was scored with a sixth-place finish. Dillon took second-place honors followed by the damaged cars of Bowyer, Larson and Ryan Newman.
“Well, I thought it was kind of boring to run around there single-file,” Bowyer said. “Man, I wish we would have stayed that way. We are not capable of going two-wide. We tore the hell out of ’em.”
What. A. Pileup. Wow. pic.twitter.com/j1mp4OS9RQ
Newman started from the pole in his No. 6 Ford, based on a draw held Saturday night, and led seven laps.
“The car drove really good, we just didn’t have the drafting partners and teamwork that we needed there at the end,” Newman said. “The rest of it was what we kind of expect here. We are used to that.”
Elliott, who was escorted to the care center for evaluation after his encounter with Larson, finished seventh.
Busch, who is the defending Cup Series champion, started his Speedweeks off with a last-place finish in the Clash. He completed 65 laps.
JOEY LOGANO AND KYLE BUSCH TRIGGER A BIG CRASH IN DAYTONA 😳 pic.twitter.com/0UzYn9dP8O
“Either you can race or you can wreck,” Busch said. “The reason why we ride in single file is because we don’t know how to race. Just a product of a few bad decisions there and we’re all crashed.”
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