Rain, wrecks, fire and a Kenseth win at Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It was a fiery ending to a very wet weekend. Far more than fireworks that lit up the sky for Matt Kenseth’s improbable victory in a rain-delayed Daytona 500 that didn’t end until early Tuesday morning.
Kenseth got some blocking help from Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle on the last lap to help hold off Dale Earnhardt Jr. as Kenseth cruised to his second 500 victory.
Biffle finished third, Denny Hamlin was fourth and Jeff Burton was fifth.
“I have to give a lot of credit to Doug Yates and the guys at the engine shop,” Kenseth said. “I could get a pretty good start on the bottom and either Denny or Dale Jr. could push me for a while and then they just couldn’t stay attached and I would get away from them.”
Kenseth nearly didn’t have a chance at the win.
“We had a lot of problems and almost ended up a lap down,” he said. “I had my radio break and my tach break and we pushed all the water out and had to come in and put water in it.”
While the race was under caution on Lap 160 of 200, something broke on Juan Pablo Montoya’s car and it veered suddenly to the right and he slid into a jet dryer packed with jet kerosene fuel.
A giant fire erupted, consuming the jet dryer as well as Montoya’s car. Both Montoya and the driver of the jet dryer were unhurt, but the safety worker, Duane Barnes, was taken to Halifax Medical Center where he was treated and released.
As NASCAR worked to clean the track, it appeared Dave Blaney, who was leading at the time of the red flag, might inherit a 500 victory.
Blaney and four others had not pitted when the race was stopped. After just over two hours of work on the track, NASCAR returned the race to caution as officials inspected the track surface to ensure it was in good condition.
This race was already in unusual before the bizarre jet dryer accident.
The 500, which had never been postponed in its 54-year history, was rescheduled for noon Monday after heavy rain moved through the area on Sunday.
Monday morning, NASCAR decided to postpone the start to 7 p.m. to allow time for the weather to clear and the track to dry.
After the long wait to start the race, the drivers were unusually antsy in the opening laps. On Lap 2, Elliott Sadler hit Jimmie Johnson in the left-rear – the way most accidents have happened the last two weeks – sending Johnson’s No. 28 Chevrolet hard into the wall.
The accident eventually collected the cars of Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick, David Ragan and Trevor Bayne. Kevin Harvick also sustained some light damage in the aftermath.
Johnson ended the 500 with 41st place finish, giving him three points for the race. However, his team still faces NASCAR penalties this week for unapproved parts found on its 500 car last week. Drivers were none-too-pleased with the early wreck.
“For all the hard work that has gone into getting this Chevrolet ready for tonight, we didn’t get to complete 2{ miles of green-flag racing,” Johnson said. “I’m pretty bummed.”
Ryan Newman spun on Lap 13 to bring out the race’s second caution of the night and sustained damage to his No. 39 Chevrolet. He was the third former champion of the race out of contention in the race’s first 13 laps.
Debris in Turn 2 brought out the third caution of the race. After a round of pit stops, Burton took over the lead on the restart on Lap 68 followed by Biffle and Marcos Ambrose.
The engine in Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet blew up on Lap 81, bringing out the fourth caution. Terry Labonte, in an attempt to win the $200,000 halfway bonus on Lap 100, stayed out to take over the lead.
The failure caught Gordon by surprise.
“There has been so much reliability testing that if we had seen some high temps or some high water pressure, then I would have kind of expected some of this to happen,” Gordon said.
“But, I was actually seeing some surprising low temps and low pressures. I don’t know, maybe something was off there.”
While racing to remain out front, Labonte was hit from behind by Ambrose on Lap 89, sending him spinning into the infield grass. On the restart on lap 91, Biffle took over the lead.
On Lap 100, Hamlin helped Martin Truex Jr. to the lead which allowed him to claim the $200,000 halfway bonus.
With 120 laps completed, Hamlin led the way followed by Truex, Biffle, Burton and Clint Bowyer. Bowyer missed pit road while trying to make a green-flag pit stop and then ran out of gas. That brought out a caution on Lap 130. On the restart on lap 133, Mark Martin assumed the lead.
David Stremme lost his engine then spun in his own oil on Lap 158 to bring out the seventh caution. All of the lead lap cars pitted, with many taking only gas. Blaney elected to stay out and inherited the lead.
After the two-hour delay, the race returned to green on Lap 167 with Kenseth in the lead after Blaney pitted for fuel.
Ambrose and Casey Mears made contact on Lap 178 to bring out a caution. On the restart on Lap 183, Kenseth continued to lead, followed by Biffle and Earnhardt.
With 15 laps left, Kenseth maintained his lead with Biffle and Earnhardt in tow.
Joey Logano got into the right-rear of Jamie McMurray on Lap 188, which triggered a seven-car wreck that also included Aric Almirola, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Regan Smith and Tony Stewart.
On the restart on Lap 193, Kenseth remained the leader.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slid into Stewart on Lap 197 which ignited a six car wreck that also collected the cars of Newman, David Reutimann, Kyle Busch, David Gilliland and Blaney. On the restart on Lap 201, Kenseth continued to lead.

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