DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. Kyle Busch raced side-by-side with Carl Edwards in the closing laps at Daytona International Speedway, each driver running wide open toward the win.
When a multicar accident brought out the caution behind them, the field was frozen and no one had any idea who won Saturday night's race. After an anxious few moments while NASCAR looked at the ending, Busch was awarded the win.
For Busch, the Sprint Cup Series points leader, it was his sixth Cup win of the year. In all, Busch has 12 victories this season spanning all three of NASCAR's top series.
"I can't believe that we're here right now," Busch said in Victory Lane. "We didn't have the best car. Luckily we were leading there when it mattered most."
Edwards finished second and was disappointed not to have one last lap to finish his race with Busch.
"Man, I hate to lose the thing like that," Edwards said. "I wish we could have raced a little longer."
Matt Kenseth, Edwards' teammate at Roush Fenway Racing, was third. He was followed by Kurt Busch, Roush driver David Ragan and Robby Gordon. Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin rounded out the top 10.
It seemed for a bit that Jeff Gordon was headed to his first victory of the season as he led 46 laps late and was handily holding off Busch as the race wound down. But with four laps to go, Busch pulled inside of Gordon and claimed the lead mere seconds before a multicar accident brought out a caution.
It set up an overtime sprint to the finish, and Edwards said Busch was slow on the restart. It stacked the traffic up behind him and Edwards ran into the back of Gordon, sending him spinning through the grass.
Edwards darted to the outside to move around the action and, with a push from Kenseth, pulled alongside Busch to set up a thrilling drag race. But they didn't get a chance to race to the checkered flag because of contact between Travis Kvapil and Sam Hornish Jr. that triggered a multicar accident that froze the field.
"I think it's ours," spotter Jeff Dickerson radioed to Busch. "We were out front. Is it ours?"
"I don't know," crew chief Steve Addington replied. "They are looking at it. I don't know."
Busch's team frantically watched the scoring tower, then jumped over the pit road wall in celebration when Busch's No. 18 was declared the winner.
Busch celebrated with his customary sarcastic bow to the crowd. But with every victory, the fans who have loved to hate him are slowly warming up to NASCAR's newest star. He was cheered this time, just like he was two weeks ago after winning on the road course in Sonoma.
Gordon, who seemed poised to end his 22-race winless streak, wound up 30th and was disappointed with the way the final restart played out.
"Everybody was laying back and trying to get a run on the last restart," Gordon said. "They got the jump on me. I tried to block him. Maybe I came across (Edwards') nose. Hard to say. It's unfortunate. We had such a strong run."
But Gordon was more upset he allowed Busch to pass him with four to go.
"I should have stayed on the bottom. My car was so good on the bottom," he said. "I'm probably more mad at myself than anything else."
Tony Stewart, winner of this race in 2005 and 2006, fell ill before the start and had J.J. Yeley on standby in case he couldn't make it to the finish. Stewart drove his car as high as third, but gave up the seat right before the halfway point and Yeley took the car to a 20th-place finish. So there was no redemption for Stewart, who lost the season-opening Daytona 500 when winner Ryan Newman passed him half a lap from the finish.
Instead, it went to Busch, who actually dominated the 500 by leading a race-high 86 laps before he was shuffled back to fourth in the closing laps.
But he recovered to earn his first restrictor-plate victory two months later when he won at Talladega in April. It gave him confidence to return to Daytona and give Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing the victory they were denied in the 500.