It started out as the NASCAR Nationwide DRIVE4 COPD 300 but it ended up more like a Saturday night demolition derby at your local fall fair.
At the conclusion, with several tons of scrap metal littering the 2.5 mile oval at Daytona International Speedway, it was 21-year-old James Buescher, a virtual unknown outside of the garage area, who beat the big names like Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick to the checkered flag.
And it was more that he was able to dodge flying pieces of race cars than speed that got him he victory.
How unkown is Buescher?
Well at one point in the race his own team spotter didn’t recognize him on the track just before the final big wreck happened with the finish line in sight.
“He was telling me on the radio ‘get to the middle’ and I had to tell him that was me in the middle,” Buescher said.
The win ended Stewart’s bid for five consecutive wins in the Nationwide race at Daytona.
For Patrick, who started on the pole in the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet and who had attracted world wide attention for becoming only the second female ever to do that in NASCAR, she faded fast after leading the first two laps.
She spent most of the first 49 laps in the middle of the pack before hooking up with JRM teammate Cole Whitt and that didn’t work out at all.
Whitt pushed her a little too hard going into Turn 3 sending her Chevrolet hard into the outside wall.
And she wasn’t too happy about what happened.
“What the f*** was he thinking?” she shouted over the team radio.
After 50 laps of the team attempting to fix the car she returned to the track to finish 38th, 48 laps behind Buescher.
But the real carnage began on lap 103 of 120 laps when 19 cars — almost half of the starting grid — did their impression of a bar room brawl coming out of Turn 4.
When the dust settled, race officials red flagged the proceedings to clean up the pile of wrecked cars that stretched from Turn 4 to the start-finish line.
On the restart, the remaining cars — and most of them were broken and bent — only completed one lap before another wreck in almost the exact same spot claimed another 14 cars.
That resulted in a one-lap shootout to the checkered flag and for the third time — again in Turn 4 — another crash sent cars flying every which way, including Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet and Earnhardt’s No. 5 Chevrolet.
It was Buescher who managed to pick his way through the mess.
Sprint Cup star Brad Keselowski finished second in the No. 22 Dodge with veteran Elliott Sadler finishing third in the No. 2 Chevrolet.
Keselowski may have put the whole afternoon’s annihilation best when he said it was just reckless driving.
“Sometimes we walk a thin line between being daredevils and chess players,” he said. “Today it was a bunch of daredevils out there.”
The wreckfest came on the heels of a similar set of crashes that plagued the Camping World Truck Series on Friday night.
And Keselowski fears that it will be the same scenario Sunday in the Daytona 500.
“At the end of the race with everybody going for the win this is what happens,” he said.