It was a wet and wild Daytona 500, but after numerous delays and an attention-grabbing crash, it was Matt Kenseth standing in Victory Lane celebrating his second Daytona win.
While poor weather is not an uncommon sight at NASCAR events, including the Daytona 500, it seems like the organization always seems to get the race in. That wasn't the case on Sunday, however, as the Daytona 500 was rained out for the first time in history. The event was pushed back to Monday and then delayed again until 7 PM.
Once the race finally got underway, it was all action from the get-go. In restrictor plate races like Daytona, the drivers tend to bunch up together in big packs, which is what fans love to see. Unfortunately, it also results in some big crashes. NASCAR analysts call the inevitable crashes "the big one" and at this year's Daytona it occurred on just the second lap.
Elliot Sadler tapped the back of five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson's car, kicking off a crash that also caught last year's Daytona winner Trevor Bayne, Kurt Busch, David Ragan and talk of the town Danica Patrick. None of the riders were much of a factor in the race after that. Patrick was able to remain out on the track, but her car sustained damage that limited her ability to compete. By the end, she was at the back of the pack and multiple laps behind the leaders. Patrick finished 38th, and later told The New York Times she was disappointed with her big debut.
"It’s disappointing," she told the news source. "I would have loved to have gotten a great finish. I would have loved to have been able to run on the lead lap there at the end. I feel bad for disappointing my fans who were cheering for me; especially going out so early. But I'll come back stronger."
Yet the big crash on lap two would not be the highlight of the night. As the race progressed, things were moving relatively quickly, and it appeared that things would be over before midnight. However, a mishap during a caution delayed everything again. Juan Pablo Montoya lost control of his car while he was trying to catch up to the pack and crashed into the back of a jet dryer truck.
These trucks are used to quickly clear away dirt and debris on the track as the race goes on. In order to utilize the high-powered compressed air, the truck carries a supply of jet fuel on the back. Montoya slid directly into this part of the truck and the vehicle exploded in a fireball.
Fortunately, the explosion was localized to the back of the truck, and both Montoya and the driver of the jet truck were able to escape unharmed. The flaming fuel then began leaking onto the track, leading to a wall of flame. The red flag was shown and Daytona was delayed yet again.
At that point, racer Dave Blaney was in the lead, and it was possible that he could have been declared the winner if NASCAR couldn't get the track ready again. However, the crews were able to put out the fire with chemicals and then clean things up with Tide detergent. Two hours later, the race started up again.
From there on out, it was all Kenseth. The driver of the Best Buy car got out in front with his teammate Greg Biffle behind him and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. right behind him. With multiple crashes on the final laps, the race went to the green-white-checkered finish, which adds two laps to the end of the race.
Earnhardt made his move on the final stretch, hoping to maneuver around Biffle and have enough juice to catch Kenseth. While Earnhardt made it to second place, he ran out of room at the end and Kenseth held on for his second Daytona victory.