by M Roberts
NASCAR’s recently implemented double file restarts was thrust into action to create some excitement at the end of races, and Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona was the perfect platform for a captive National audience to watch it results unfold on America’s Independence Day.
With just over one lap remaining, Kyle Busch had taken the lead from Tony Stewart who led most of the night. Busch got a great push from teammate Denny Hamlin that propelled him to the lead. Just as Busch was coming out of turn three of the last lap, he had Stewart all over his rear bumper.
As Stewart made a move for the pass inside, Busch blocked the move near turn four, but then Stewart moved outside and had position. Busch attempted to block again moving up on the track and into Stewart which then propelled Busch into a succession of cars piling into him with several violent hits.
Tony Stewart raced to his second victory of the season, but was very somber and apologetic after the race despite it being just hard racing and a product of today’s restrictor plate racing. He stated that he hated to see Busch have his day end that way because Busch was working well with him all night in the draft and helped him get the win.
Stewart was a class act afterwards in press interviews and had genuine concern for Busch's health and final finish position. Busch was upset and refused to talk with the media afterwards, which was likely a good decision because of some of his past rants.
Busch was taken to the medical infield care center and treated for a headache, which if seeing the plows his car took from the front by the wall, the back end by Kasey Kahne and then being T-Boned by teammate Joey Logano, Busch looked to have surely had more trouble than just a headache. The Car of Tomorrow did a great job on this night for sure.
The ending to this race was almost identical to the ending in NASCAR’s other restrictor plate race in April at Talladega that saw Carl Edwards flip air born in the same type of block move on rookie Brad Keselowski. While many of the drivers have openly complained about the current state of plate racing and how the cars being bunched up so tightly makes the spectacular crash inevitable, things aren’t likely to change.
Preliminary television ratings aren’t available until Monday, but the combination of a spectacular finish and great continuous coverage with all live action shown, the ratings are likely to be high compared to the downward trend seen all season. The sinking television ratings could be the reason for the sudden change in double file restarts as a measure to spice things up, and it looks like it worked.
After the dust settled among all the cars piled up near the finish line, Jimmie Johnson finished second followed by Denny Hamlin, Edwards, and Kurt Busch.
Unofficial Coke Zero 400 Results: http://www.nascar.com/races/cup/2009/18/data/results_unofficial.html