In a race that will be remembered more for delays, cautions and fires than the actual finish, Matt Kenseth saved his best for last. Kenseth held off a late charge from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the Daytona 500.
Racing more than 24 hours after the scheduled start of the race, Kenseth held the lead over two cautions in the final 10 laps. Sunday's race was canceled due to rain, and the re-scheduled start time was pushed back from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. due to rain.
Once the race started, it didn't take long for the caution flag to drop, as Jimmie Johnson was involved in a multi-car wreck on the second lap of the race. Elliott Sadler bumped Johnson, sending him into the wall and triggering a wild wreck that also claimed the cars of Danica Patrick, defending 500 champion Trevor Bayne and David Ragan.
Patrick, running in her first Daytona 500, would miss 38 laps before returning and finishing near the back of the pack. The wreck involving Johnson and Patrick was the first of 10 caution flags on the night.
The oddest, and scariest moment of the race came with 40 laps to go. While drivers ran under the seventh caution flag of the race, Juan Pablo Montoya lost control of his car and smashed into a maintenance vehicle.
The truck was using a helicopter jet engine to dry the track and clear debris, and it exploded, sending a stream of burning diesel fuel across the track. Track workers got the blaze under control, but it caused a two-plus hour delay.
Dave Blaney was in the lead when the race was red-flagged, but he wouldn't hold that lead for long. The rest of the field sped past Blaney's damaged care at the re-start.
Kenseth settled into the lead, and held on the rest of the way thanks to teammate Greg Biffle. Kenseth and Biffle hooked up, with Biffle pushing Kenseth and keeping his teammate at the front of the pack.
Kenseth became the first driver since Jeff Gordon in 2005 to win a second Daytona 500 in the past decade. It was also the 22nd win of Kenseth's career.
Earnhardt Junior finished second, coming up short in his push off the final turn to pass Kenseth. Earnhardt was attempting to snap a 129-race winless drought.
The Sprint Cup Circuit returns to the track on Sunday in Phoenix.
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