After 15-truck wreck, Kyle Busch roars to first truck win at Daytona (VIDEO)

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kyle Busch timed his run for the lead perfectly, coming off Turn 4 at Daytona International Speedway to squeeze by and pass Timothy Peters in the final seconds of Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250.

In his first career win in a Truck at Daytona, Busch beat Peters to the checkered flag by .016 of a second in the closest finish in a Trucks race at DIS and the eighth-closest finish in overall Trucks Series history.

“It sounds awesome but I’d love to be a Daytona 500 winner,” Busch said when asked how he felt to finally break through with a Trucks win at DIS.

The younger Busch brother will get that opportunity in the Great American Race on Sunday, going for his first win in the Sprint Cup season opener, although he’ll be starting from 37th position in the 43-car field.

“This now makes it where I’ve won four (races) here, one in ARCA, Nationwide, Cup and now Trucks,” Busch said of being the first driver in NASCAR history to earn wins in all four series at Daytona. “I’ve been trying to get that fourth one and finally got it.”

Peters tried to block, forcing Busch up the track to almost the outside retaining wall, but Busch never lifted and at the last second somehow found just enough extra horsepower to get past Peters. Busch called it was probably the biggest history in Kyle Busch Motorsports history.

“We’ve started the trifecta,” said Busch, who goes for a win in Saturday’s Nationwide Series opener as well as Sunday’s Daytona 500.

It was Busch’s 36th win in the Trucks series, and crew chief Eric Phillips’ 28th in the NCWTS, tying him with Rick Wren for most wins by a crew chief in trucks annals.

Johnny Sauter finished third, followed by Ryan Truex and Ron Hornaday Jr.

Sixth through 10th were Ryan Blaney, Jeb Burton, Joe Nemechek, Jimmy Weller III and German Quiroga.

As close and exciting as the finish was, it also was a race marked by a spectacular 15-truck crash in Turn 2 with 25 laps remaining in the 100-lap event (see video above).

It appeared from TV replays that Sean Corr got into the rear of Parker Kligerman, who was pushed into Mason Mingus, triggering the huge wreck.

The push from Kligerman turned Mingus hard to the right and plowed head-on into the outside SAFER barrier, spun and then hit the wall again with the back of his truck.

None of the drivers involved were injured, but nearly half the field was sidelined due to damage as a result.

The 15 drivers involved included Mingus, Kligerman, Corr, Ryan Sieg, Darrell Wallace Jr., John King, Brian Ickler, John Wes Townley, Brennan Newberry, Tyler Young, Chris Fontaine, Tyler Reddick, Ben Kennedy, Joey Coulter and Chris Cockrum.

For as much wreckage as there was scattered across the race track, the race was never red-flagged, with the overall yellow caution period lasting just six laps until all wrecked trucks and debris were removed by safety crews.

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Schmidt Peterson aiming high with Hinchcliffe, Wickens

Photo: IndyCar
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The new Schmidt Peterson Motorsports duo of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens expressed a high amount of confidence during Wednesday’s confirmation of Hinchcliffe’s return and Wickens’ signing, as the pair looks to return the Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson co-owned team to prominent status within the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“We’re hoping to give Toronto and Ontario and Canadian sports fans in general something to cheer about over the next season,” Hinchcliffe quipped during a teleconference on Wednesday.

Granted, there are likely to be several challenges to overcome, notably for Wickens, who returns to single-seater competition for the first time since 2011, when he was a champion of the Formula Renault 3.5 series and served as test driver for the now defunct Manor Racing (then known as Marussia Virgin Racing).

Having spent every year since then in DTM, where he won a total of six races and finished as high as fourth in the championship (2016), Wickens knows returning to open wheel competition will be an adjustment. However, he explained that the history of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, specifically its Indy Lights history, speaks to their ability to help a driver adapt, and he rates the program they’re putting together very highly.

“I think Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have a fantastic driver development program. They showed that in their multiple Indy Lights championships along the way. I think we will have a strong program in place. I have a feeling that the simulator will be my new best friend,” Wickens said when asked about getting reacquainted with an open-wheel car.

Of course, having an experienced teammate like Hinchcliffe to lean on will undoubtedly help the transition, something Wickens readily admitted.

“I’m very fortunate that I have James as my teammate because he’s so experienced, I can learn off him. Because we already have such a good off-track relationship, I feel like you can just take his word, trust him, kind of move forward with it,” he revealed.

They’ve been teammates before, both in karting where they first met in 2001, and then in the now-defunct A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008, a series that pitted nations against each other in spec open-wheel cars. Funnily, that A1GP type of vibe returns as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports now has that with its “Team Canada” mantra while all four of Andretti Autosport’s full-season drivers are American.

For Hinchcliffe, Wickens’ background, even if it hasn’t been in the single-seater realm since 2011, was a big selling point in adding him to the team.

“In Robby, we have a proven winner at a very high level. The level of technical expertise that he comes with from his time in DTM is very impressive,” he said of Wickens’ technical background.

Hinchcliffe added that Wickens’ ability to analyze the car and its setup was evidenced in two outings: one at Sebing International Raceway in March, in part of a “ride swap” between the two longtime friends, and a second at Road America, when he subbed on Friday practice for Mikhail Aleshin.

Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda earlier this year. Photo: IndyCar

Hinchcliffe revealed that Wickens’ feedback to the team and his ability to quickly adapt to the chassis took everyone somewhat by surprise.

“We did our ride swap. He had two hours in the car, hardly anything even resembling a test day, and his performance was pretty impressive. No doubt the time in Road America helped because that really gave us a better sense of his technical feedback, integrated with the team a little bit more. Everybody was happy to work with him on that day,” said Hinchcliffe.

Further still, Hinchcliffe is firm in his belief that the 2018 aero kit and its reduction in aerodynamic downforce will fall right into Wickens’ wheelhouse, based on Hinchcliffe’s own take after sampling Wickens’ DTM Mercedes earlier this year.

“In all honesty, I was saying earlier today, the 2018 car is probably better suited for him than the 2017 car because of the experience he’s had the last handful of series,” Hinchcliffe asserted.

“The (aero kit) was such high downforce, it would be a big change coming out of DTM. But with the loss of downforce that we’ve seen, the car is moving around a little bit more, brake zones, things like that, it won’t be as big a transition I think. Just based on the experience that I got in our ride swap, I think he’s going to adapt very quickly, be comfortable very quickly, and as a result be competitive very quickly. So it’s going to be exciting.”

As for expectations heading into next year, team co-owner Schmidt did not mince words and expects the team’s performance to resemble what they did in 2012, 2013, and 2014, when they won a total of four races (with driver Simon Pagenaud) and finished in the top five in the championship each year.

“We had a stint in ’12, ’13, ’14 where we finished fifth in the points (or better. I think we want to get back to that level of competition,” Schmidt added. “We felt like we were missing things in having two cars with equal funding and equal drivers and equal capabilities. We think this gets back there.”

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