DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. --- Time and again, Kyle Busch got knocked down in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout.
But the indomitable driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was never knocked down out for the count. He maneuvered his way out of two near-disaster spinouts that shrouded his car in a shower of sparks only to come back and slingshot his way past Tony Stewart in an exciting green-white-checkered finish.
"I was right behind him when he had the deal in [Turn] 1 and 2,'' said Stewart, who triggered a five-car crash during the first Shootout practice Friday that collected Kyle and Kurt Busch and forced both to start the 75-lap race from the rear of the 25-car field after having to go to backup cars.
"He had to catch it three times before he saved it,'' Stewart marveled. "You get 3,400 pounds moving like that, to catch it once was pretty big, to get away from it and catch it again was big, and the third time was big.
"That's three big moments in one corner and he never quit driving,'' Stewart continued. "He did a fantastic job with that save ... I'm like, `Man, that's the coolest save I've seen in a long time.' It was big and it hurt us all at the time, but that was a pretty big moment.
"Pretty cool to see somebody that went through two big moments like that come out and win the race still.''
After he helped push Stewart into the lead past the three-car draft of Marcus Ambrose, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman, Busch pushed the wrinkled nose of his Toyota past Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet to capture the first Shootout victory of his career by the closest margin in event history, 0.013 seconds.
"First time might have been luck, but I'm going to say the second time was all skill,'' Busch said, jokingly referring to the pair of skillful saves he made when he got spun twice in the second 50-lap segment of this 75-lap affair.
"It was interesting from my seat,'' he said. "I was steering, stabbing, braking, gassing, everything in between, trying to keep the thing straight, get it back under control. Man, it was a fun race.''
The crash was marred by three big wrecks, the last of which proved the scariest when Jeff Gordon triggered a nine-car incident by spinning Kyle Busch in Turn 4 of Lap 75. Although Busch wound up surviving it, Gordon suffered the worst of it when his No. 24 Chevrolet turned into the wall at the top of the banking and collected the cars of Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson.
Gordon's car then flipped over and skidded along the outside wall, causing a shower of sparks to shoot out from the driver's side as it slid down the banking and across the track to a paved run-off area near the entrance of pit road where it barrel-rolled 2-1/2 times before coming to a stop on the driver's side.
Amazingly, Gordon managed to climb out of the car unhurt.
``This was not how I wanted to start the 2012 season,'' Gordon said. "I've never been upside down in one of these cars. The hit to the wall was much harder than the rest of it. The roll was pretty soft and pretty easy. The protection we have inside of these cars is amazing because I didn't even hardly feel any of it
"The toughest part,'' Gordon said, "is when you're laying upside down and you can't get out of the car. The roof was caved in a little bit and that was no fun.''
There were five cautions for 23 laps, including a competition caution for a 10-minute break after Jamie McMurray led the first 25-lap segment. There were 26 lead changes among 13 drivers. Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle led three times for 17 laps, the most of any driver.
"You know this win certainly ranks up there,'' said Busch. "Being knocked around and beat around, almost spun out a couple of times, being able to prevail through all that, [and] still come through ... it was cool.''