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AP photo by John Raoux / Erik Jones celebrates in victory lane Sunday at Daytona International Speedway after winning the NASCAR Busch Clash exhibiton race in Daytona Beach, Fla. It took three overtimes and 88 laps to complete the event due to multiple crashes, and even Jones' car had serious damage.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The Busch Clash? More like the Busch Crash.

The first race of NASCAR's 2020 schedule was a demolition derby that turned Daytona International Speedway into a giant junkyard.

Erik Jones won Sunday's race that left a multimillion-dollar trail of destruction and masked the fact the Clash was a made-for-TV exhibition. Only 18 cars were entered, and only six were on track when the checkered flag flew at the end of a third overtime.

Jones crossed the finish line in a Toyota with a crumpled hood after a huge push from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, the 2019 Daytona 500 winner. The event was set for 75 laps but ended up going 88 because of the late crashes, making it the longest in history.

"I've got to give a huge thanks to Denny there He stuck with us there that whole last lap," Jones said. "It wasn't the fastest car, I don't think, left in the race, but we brought it home. I owe him one for that one for sure."

Hamlin was a lap down after a blown tire during the previous overtime caused him to crash half the cars remaining on track, but he had enough speed to push Jones along the outside and give JGR yet another win. The organization won 19 races last year, went 1-2-3 in the Daytona 500 and won the Cup Series title as Kyle Busch earned the second crown of his career.

With nine victories, Joe Gibbs — recently inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame — has more Busch Clash victories than any other team owner in history.

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AP photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack / NASCAR drivers William Byron (24), Martin Truex Jr. (19), Kurt Busch (1), Austin Dillon (3), Ryan Newman (6) and Kevin Harvick (4) are involved in a multi-car wreck along the front stretch of Daytona International Speedway after a restart from an earlier crash Sunday during the Busch Clash in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Team Penske's Brad Keselowski was among those incensed by the aggressive late blocking. The race was fairly anticlimactic until two wrecks in the final nine laps sent it into overtime, and as Keselowski railed against the racing that ended his day, Hamlin got a flat tire as the leader on a restart and collected most of the cars on track.

"Dumb, dumb racing," said Keselowski, who slapped the side of an ambulance with both hands in frustration. "We shouldn't be wrecking all these cars. You'd think these guys would be smarter than that. It's the same thing over and over: Somebody throws a stupid block that's never going to work and wrecks half the field.

"I don't know. Maybe we need to take the helmets out of these cars and the seat belts out. Somebody will get hurt, and then we'll stop driving like (expletive)."

Busch, collected in the accident that ended Keselowski's day when Penske teammate Joey Logano tried to block Busch, said the crashes are a product of superspeedway racing.

"Either you can race or you can wreck," Busch said. "The reason why we ride in single file (early in the race) is because we don't know how to race. Just a product of a few bad decisions there and we're all crashed."

The cars used in the exhibition are backups for the next Sunday's Daytona 500, the Cup Series season opener.

Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillon was second in the new Chevrolet Camaro and followed by Clint Bowyer in a Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kyle Larson was fourth for Chip Ganassi Racing, and RFR's Ryan Newman was fifth as the last car on the lead lap.

Hamlin had the only other car running at the end and ended up being a solid teammate.

"It's so awesome," Hamlin said. "I knew he needed to strap in, because that last lap I was going to push him. I didn't care if I was going to push him into a wreck. I was just going to push him. It was fun."

The last lap was the only one Jones led.

"I didn't know it was that bad, to be honest with you, until now," Jones said as he looked at his crumpled car. "But it sure feels good to come out of here with a win, especially in a race with perseverance like that. You don't want to give up, and when it pays off in the end, it makes it extra special."

 

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