Kurt Busch

59th Annual DAYTONA 500
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Kurt Busch’s Daytona 500 winning car has a new home for the next year

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Kurt Busch’s Daytona 500-winning Ford Fusion has finally stopped rolling after adding an extra few hundred feet to its mileage log.

One day after capturing “The Great American Race,” the No. 41 was placed on permanent display for the next year at Daytona International Speedway’s Daytona 500 Experience Museum during Monday morning’s traditional race winner’s breakfast.

It was the first win for Stewart-Haas Racing in its first regular season race in Ford colors and power.

Check out some of the photos of the car and the festivities:

And then, last but not least, the Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 championship trophy is safely ensconced in its new home at Stewart-Haas Racing in Kannapolis, North Carolina.

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A story of heart: How Tony Gibson and Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500

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When Kurt Busch crossed the finish line to win the Daytona 500 Sunday, Tony Stewart was sitting on the pit box next to Busch’s crew chief, Tony Gibson.

While Stewart was jumping up and down in celebration of the win, for a split-second, he wondered if Gibson was alright or if maybe he should call paramedics.

“He was comatose,” Stewart said of Gibson. “He doesn’t move. He put his head back. Did he pass out? I had to shake him a bit.

“He just sat there the whole last lap and when I saw the door open, I started jumping because I knew what was coming. He just never flinched until it was over. He just laid his head back like he was getting a suntan.”

Of the 100,000-plus people at Daytona International Speedway and millions more watching on TV as the exciting finish played out, Gibson was arguably the coolest. It was almost as if he was channeling Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman and his trademark line, “What, me worry?”

Nah, not Gibson. He and Busch had this. It would be their fourth Cup win together, but the biggest by far.

When the checkered flag waved – and while Gibson said Stewart “was like a frog jumping up and down” – Gibson just sat there for a few moments, soaking in all the sights and sounds, still not totally convinced that he and his driver had just won The Great American Race.

“You won the 500,” Stewart told Gibson, who responded with a smile, admitting, “I wasn’t sure I did or not.”

Over his long NASCAR career, Gibson had been part of previous Daytona 500 wins with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as a team member.

But Sunday was something he never had experienced before: it was the first time he – Tony Gibson, NASCAR’s self-professed “Old Man” – would leave his hometown of Daytona Beach as a Daytona 500-winning crew chief.

Kurt Busch and Tony Gibson have now visited victory lane together four times in the NASCAR Cup Series, including this win at Richmond in 2015. (Getty Images)

It also would bring back tons of memories of his life and all the time he’s logged in and around the “World Center Of Racing.”

“This is where I grew up,” Gibson said. “I was born in Halifax Hospital across the street. My mom retired from here. My dad raced here all his life. To come here and do this is amazing.

“I had two other brothers that raced. Dad had to work night and day and everything he had to make sure we could race and have fun. So my mom and dad are the ones I thought about the very first thing (after Sunday’s win).”

The 52-year-old Gibson has seen and done a lot in his NASCAR life. But never what happened Sunday.

“I’ve been on the road for 33 years in this business in NASCAR, and I’ve put my life and soul into it,” Gibson said. “I’ve won the Daytona 500 before and it’s awesome, but to win it as a crew chief, I can’t describe how it feels, to take your team, put everything together and to make it happen. … It’s just phenomenal as a crew chief. It just means so much to me.

“Growing up, where I’m at today, my wife Beth, she’s been my biggest supporter for the last 26 years, sticking with me when things are bad.  I’m laid up in the hospital (recently with kidney stones), whatever.

“All those emotions just clamp on you at one time. It takes a few minutes for it to sink in. It’s pretty incredible.”

Indeed, not only was Busch’s and Gibson’s achievement incredible, it was one of the best feel-good stories that Daytona has seen in many a 500.

While winning Sunday was one of the greatest accomplishments of Gibson’s life, two other stories came to light after the victory celebration that further illustrates the kind of guy Gibson is and why he’s so beloved in the sport.

First, when Dale Earnhardt Jr. left the soon-to-implode Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2008, Gibson promised Junior that he would do everything he could to keep “his guys” together, that he’d find them jobs somewhere else.”

Indeed, Gibson did, convincing Gene Haas and Tony Stewart, who recently had joined as partners in the then-fledgling Stewart-Haas Racing, to hire most of the former DEI expats – a group that has now been together for more than 13 years.

“I was determined to keep these guys together,” Gibson told NBC’s Marty Snider after Sunday’s race. “That’s what I wanted to do and that’s what I’ve done.

“I’m more proud of that, to keep these guys’ jobs when things were really, really bad in the industry. To be able to stay together and come back to win the Daytona 500, I can’t say enough about them.”

Added Stewart, “They all came from DEI and that shows the kind of leadership Tony Gibson has. They’d go to the end of the earth for him.”

Gibson has worked with a number of NASCAR greats, dating back to one of his first jobs as car chief for Alan Kulwicki when he won the 1992 Winston Cup championship.

Along the way, there were many others, some of the biggest names of the sport, including Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR Hall of Famers Bill Elliott and Mark Martin, Stewart, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick.

But it was Busch that gave Gibson the one thing he never had earned in his life: a win in NASCAR’s biggest race in Gibson’s hometown.

Which leads to the second story about the kind of guy Gibson is.

Some other crew chiefs may have been hesitant to work with Busch, given some of the controversy that has occurred in his career – most of it off-track and in his personal life.

But not Gibson. He didn’t judge Busch by what happened in the past. All he was concerned about was Busch’s immense talent and what he would do in the future – and with Gibson atop his pit box.

Even when things got tough, Tony Gibson never gave up in his faith in Kurt Busch. (Getty Images)

“I love him to death,” Gibson said of Busch. “When I took that job on a couple years ago, we sat down and had a come-to-Jesus talk right off the bat. And since Day One we’ve been money.

“We respect one another, I respect what he’s accomplished and he respects what I’ve accomplished. And we mesh good together. I wouldn’t have nobody else driving my race cars than Kurt Busch. There’s nobody better. … He’s going to drive the wheels off it no matter what. You never have to second-guess is he giving you 110 percent?”

After 17 years, Busch finally earned NASCAR’s most prestigious honor to go along with the championship he earned in 2004. He came back to Daytona Beach year after year, with several different crew chiefs, including finishing runner-up three times.

But no one could get Busch the one trophy he and Gibson both craved the most – until Sunday.

Damage from an earlier accident in Sunday’s race and fears that he was about a half-lap short on fuel caused Busch great concern. But with “Old Man” atop the pit box, Busch’s concerns were allayed.

“When you have a crew chief that grows up in the shadows of the grandstands here in Daytona, you know you have the best guy because his heart is in it,” Busch said. “That’s what Daytona is about. You have to give it your heart.”

Sunday, Busch and Gibson both put their hearts into the win. And even though Stewart briefly wondered if something may have happened to Gibson’s heart on the pit box, he wasn’t exactly far off in a way.

After giving more than three decades years to the sport he loves, Gibson’s heart was in the best place it ever could be.

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Results of 59th Daytona 500: Kurt Busch wins, Blaney runner-up

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After finishing runner-up three different times there in his career (2003, 2005, 2008), Kurt Busch finally captured his first Daytona 500 in Sunday’s 59th edition of the “Great American Race.”

The 2004 NASCAR Cup champion led only one lap, but it was the most important lap — the final lap of the 200-lap event at the “World Center Of Racing.”

Ryan Blaney finished second, followed by A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola and Paul Menard. Pole-sitter Chase Elliott led 39 laps but fell back late in the race to finish 14th.

Kevin Harvick led the most laps (50) and finished 22nd.

And Michael Waltrip, racing in his 30th Daytona 500 — and what he previously said will be the final race of his lengthy NASCAR Cup career — finished a respectable eighth place.

Also of note, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who missed the entire second half of last season due to a concussion, as well as 2016 NASCAR Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, both wrecked out and failed to finish.

Click here for the full results of the 2017 Daytona 500.

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Stenhouse leads train of 6 Fords in final Daytona NASCAR Cup practice

59th Annual DAYTONA 500 - Practice
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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led a Ford onslaught during Saturday’s final NASCAR Cup practice for Sunday’s 59th Daytona 500.

Stenhouse Jr. was the fastest of six Ford drivers that paced the 28-driver field with a top speed of 198.452 mph, nearly two mph faster than second-fastest Joey Logano (196.751 mph).

Logano’s Team Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski, was third-fastest (196.747), followed by three Stewart-Haas Racing teammates: Kevin Harvick (196.726), Kurt Busch (196.700) and Clint Bowyer (196.674).

The fastest Chevrolet driver was Elliott Sadler, seventh-fast at 196.584 mph. The fastest Toyota driver was Canadian driver D.J. Kennington, who was 25th-fastest at 192.814 mph.

In an interesting twist, no other Toyota drivers took part in the practice session at Daytona International Speedway.

Click here to see how the final practice played out.

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Kurt Busch wants to break Daytona’s ‘ownership’ of him

Daytona 500 Media Day
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Kurt Busch wants to break the chains that bind him.

No, he doesn’t want to leave Stewart-Haas Racing or part ways with his sponsors.

Rather, Busch wants Daytona International Speedway to set him free and cut him a break or two.

“This track owns me,” Busch said Wednesday during Daytona 500 media day at DIS. “It doesn’t owe me anything, it’s just owned me over the years.”

Busch has made 31 career NASCAR Cup starts at the 2.5-mile tri-oval and has come away with 12 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes.

But he’s never reached victory lane there (nor at NASCAR’s other restrictor plate track, Talladega Superspeedway).

Yet, he keeps coming back to Daytona, twice a year, trying to tame the track that just won’t give him a break.

“You have to keep that optimism and show up each time with the enthusiasm to go after it as a fresh start and as a championship weekend all wrapped into one,” Busch said. “This is one of those tough races to win. It’s the most prestigious stock car race there is.

“It’s not easy and I’ve got to do a better job at being better in the clutch moments at the end of the race to capitalize on my track position to hold off the guys from behind and to win it this time, instead of figuring out what I need to do better finishing second.”

Indeed, the Las Vegas native has finished second three times in the “Great American Race” (2003, 2005 and 2008).

“I feel like 2005 I had a chance to make a move on Jeff Gordon going down the back straightaway,” Busch said of the final lap. “I looked in the mirror and I saw Dale Jr. behind me and a load of Chevrolets.

“This was when I was driving with Ford and I guess I just should have jumped out of line and made the move to see what would have happened through turns three and four, to see if I could have won it that year.”

Another Daytona finish that still eats at Busch is 2011, when he ended up fifth.

“In 2011, I had everything going my way,” he said. “I won the Clash. I won the qualifying Duel. I was in the same position on the last lap of the 500 and I didn’t pull it off.”

Could Busch’s 0-for-63 record in restrictor plate races finally come to an end this Sunday? Sooner or later, the law of averages will turn in his direction, Busch hopes.

“I’ve been close many a times,” he said. “I definitely want to try to get this big trophy.”

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