DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Kyle Busch pushed his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin to his second Daytona 500 in four years. However, the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion is not sure if Hamlin would do the same for him.
In his 14th attempt to win “The Great American Race,” Busch finished second, and while he was happy that a Joe Gibbs Racing car was in victory lane, he was also not very thrilled with being the bridesmaid.
Busch said Hamlin refused to work together on the penultimate restart. But on the final restart, Hamlin changed his mind. Busch obliged and blocked defending series champion Joey Logano’s late charge to allow Hamlin to cruise to victory circle.
“I’d much rather see a JGR car ‑‑ no offense, but I’d much rather see a JGR car in victory lane more than anybody else,” Busch said. So I felt like keeping our strength in numbers lined up was going to be the best we could be.
“This was probably the best shot to win,” said Busch, who led 37 laps. “Being up front that much at the end of the race and having the track position and being in those positions on those restarts.”
Busch was the leader on a restart with nine laps to go but opted to start on the bottom lane after Hamlin informed Busch’s crew that he did not want to work together.
That changed before the final restart, though, as Busch claimed that Hamlin wanted to return to “teammate preservation mode.”
“Kind of funny how it swaps back and forth a little bit, but it is what it is,” Busch said.
Despite coming up short, this was Busch’s second top-three finish in the Daytona 500. He finished third in the 2016 running, which Hamlin also won.