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Daytona 500 2012: Kyle Busch Is Average in a Ludicrous Race

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Brown Toyota, waves to fans during driver introductions prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 26, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jerry Markland/Getty Images
David DeNennoContributor IIIFebruary 28, 2012

Amidst the chaos that was the 54th installment of the Daytona 500, Kyle "Rowdy" Busch was almost anything but chaotic in his tactical approach to the race.

A 17th place finish would usually be considered below average, even disappointing, for Busch, a perennial Chase contender.

Of the three cars in the race for Joe Gibbs Racing, he finished the worst. Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano were each able to nab top 10 finishes.

However, it is safe to say that while Busch's strategy might not have paid off, it did allow him to be one of only 24 cars to actually finish on the lead lap.

He may have had some problems with his car, though nothing was obvious or even mentioned in the television broadcast. Really, it just seemed as though Busch was content to lay back in the pack and tried to avoid big wrecks. Casey Mears, had he adopted Busch's strategy, may have been able to finish better had he not succumbed to a wreck that Busch avoided by not heading to the front.

This was surely not a typical race, and it was also not a typical approach for Busch. His lack of aggression was almost strange.

He only made one, or, at least was only in position for one, move to the front of the pack. This occurred after the fifth caution flag was brought out 10 laps before Lap 100, the Midway Payday.

Perhaps it was coincidence. It is hard to imagine that a naturally aggressive driver like Busch gave his best effort of the night to an almost meaningless $200,000 prize.

As the race progressed, Busch's option to hang back away from the front seemed like it could pay dividends. With only 10 laps remaining, he had climbed and steadied himself into 11th place. Clearly, he realized that he was not going to be able to compete with, by far, the four strongest cars in the race: Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Denny Hamlin.

Unfortunately for Busch, he was unable to duplicate the miraculous "wheelmanship" that allowed him to turn a sure wreck into a victory at the Budweiser Shootout.

With four laps left, he was redirected into the grass after a chain reaction of collisions, starting with Tony Stewart, left him no room to maneuver. At this point in the race, with fewer cars and more frequent restarts, it was nearly impossible to try to ease away from the lead group of cars.

Thus, for Busch, it surely could have been better, but it could have been worse. Undoubtedly, "Rowdy" is probably a little unhappy with his overall finish. He will get over it.

He took a conservative approach to the Daytona 500 and got a fairly conservative result. He ran a race that looked fairly average and mundane in the context of one of the more bizarre races in recent NASCAR memory.

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