Matt Kenseth Wins Crazy Daytona 500

Matt Kenseth in Daytona 500 Victory Lane
photo – Forbes.com

One of the craziest nights in racing ended up with Matt Kenseth winning his second Daytona 500 in the last four years. For the first time in the Daytona 500’s 54-year history the race was postponed until Monday. This is also the first time the Daytona 500 was not on Presidents’ Day weekend. 


After announcing the race would be delayed yet again Monday at noon, the scheduled start time, NASCAR decided to have its first Daytona 500 that night during primetime on FOX. Many fans would now be able to watch the race from home and the weather looked clear. The 7pm start time kicked off this wild night of events. 


Greg Biffle led the first lap but soon fans saw the first multi-car wreck of the night. Just after the start finish line on lap 2, Elliot Sadler driving the #33 got into the rear left corner of the five-time champion Jimmie Johnson sending Johnson head-on into the outer wall and collecting other cars with him. When David Ragan slowed down to avoid the wreck he was hit from behind by Danica Patrick, making her cup debut for Stewart-Haas Racing. Danica sent David Ragan into Jimmie Johnson, who was stopped in the middle of the track, hitting Johnson’s driver side door. 


After the wreck Johnson tweeted (@JimmieJohnson) “Really… Did that just happen??” – a reference to the wreck on lap 2. Other drivers involved in the lap 2 incident include Kurt Busch, 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne and Elliot Sadler. In response to the wreck, Kyle Busch said on his radio, “Seriously. Sit around for 36 hours and have a wreck on the first lap? Are we kidding ourselves?” In response to the wreck.


Next caution didn’t fall too far after the first when Ryan Newman spun all by himself at the exit of turn 4. With a long green flag run currently going on, some drivers decided to hang out at the back to avoid any incident too early. Those drivers include 2007 Daytona 500 champ Kevin Harvick, Juan Pablo Montoya (more to come on him later), 2010 Daytona 500 champ Jamie McMurray, Terry Labonte, 2008 Daytona 500 champ Ryan Newman, Tony Raines, and David Gilliland. 


For a Monday night Daytona 500, the track drew a great crowd. Lots of people stayed and there were more people for this race than on July 4th weekend for the second Daytona race of the season.  


For the third caution of the night there was debris on the track.  On lap 81, the three-time Daytona 500 champ Jeff Gordon blew an engine. After Gordon’s blown engine, his team owner Rick Hendrick, lost his two championship winning drivers and possibly the chance at getting the organization’s 200th win.

Getting closer to halfway, Terry Labonte spun in the paved area just before pit road but was able to carry on. 


For this event only, drivers could earn a $200,000 bonus for leading at the halfway mark of the race, which is sometimes more than winning a race at other tracks. Martin Truex Jr had help from Denny Hamlin as he took the lead at lap 100 – the halfway mark – taking the bonus honors. 


On lap 129 Clint Bowyer – Michael Waltrip’s newest driver along with Mark Martin – ran out of fuel and needed assistance getting back to pit road. Just a few laps later the #30 car of David Stremme spun out.


After a quick track cleaning, drivers would be back to racing. But the next caution would take almost two hours before drivers would return to racing.
Before describing the next incident, everyone needs to know this was no one’s fault. Under this caution Juan Pablo Montoya (JPM) had come back out on the track getting up to speed and trying to catch up with the field when something on his car broke when entering turn 3. At this point, Montoya has no control of the car. 


The Jet Dryers are used in NASCAR to blow off debris so the racing surface is clean. They are the reason why the track was dry in time to race Monday night. Again at this same point, the track crew is doing their job of blowing off the debris to get track ready for racing. These Jet Dryers carry 200 gallons of Jet fuel to power the blower to dry or blow off the racing surface. 

Jet Fuel igniting on the track from the Jet Dryer
photo – New York Times

Montoya’s car lost all control and spun up into one of the Jet Dryers, sparking the jet fuel to ignite. It also damaged the truck pulling the dryer driven by Duane Barnes who was uninjured in the accident.  Montoya’s car rammed into the jet dryer, setting his car on fire. Now jet fuel is leaking out of the  dryer and soon it ignites and sparks the fuel spilling on the track. Montoya also reported that part of his helmet was burnt. 


All of this creates a major problem for the track with 200 gallons of jet fuel burning and a jet dryer on fire, along with a small part of the SAFER Barrier burnt. Quickly fire crews respond to the scene from the infield and put the fire out which took about 20 minutes.

After a big fork lift brings the jet dryer and truck off track, NASCAR Officials start inspecting the damage to the asphalt. There is some damage to the SAFER Barrier along the turn 3 wall, and burnt marks along the track. First NASCAR sends officials to clean all the un-burnt jet fuel off the track with none other than Tide laundry detergent. Once the surface is cleaned up they see that some of the track needs a few small patches. So they now take additional time to patch the track with street-bond. After a two hour, five minute delay, it’s now Tuesday morning along the east coast, the track is repaired and the drivers are heading back to their cars to finish race.


With just over 30 laps to go, this race is getting intense. The first big wreck involving race cars happened when Jamie McMurray was tapped from behind by Joey Logano, causing McMurray to spin up into traffic and collecting other cars. Also involved in the wreck were Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Regan Smith, Aric Almirola, and Carl Edwards. 


With four laps to go, another multi-car wreck happens when Ricky Stenhouse Jr got tapped from behind by Joey Logano causing Stenhouse Jr, in the No.6, to turn into 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart, who got into the No.18 of Kyle Busch, spinning Kyle Busch into Ryan Newman. Also involved in the wreck were David Reutimann and Dave Blaney. 


Now the race is set-up for the first “Green-White-Checkered” finish of the season. Taking the white flag is 2009 Daytona 500 Champion Matt Kenseth. behind him is his teammate Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. In turn 4 on the final lap, Dale Earnhardt Jr makes a move to the outside of Greg Biffle but can’t get to Matt Kenseth, allowing Matt Kenseth to win the 2012 Daytona 500. 


After a crazy night of events, the time is now 1:00 AM on the east coast and fans saw a race worth staying up for sure!


Daytona 500 Finishing Order

1

4

#17

Ford

50

202

running

47/4

$1,589,387

2

5

#88

Chevrolet

0

202

running

42/0

$1,102,175

3

2

#16

Ford

44

202

running

42/1

$804,163

4

31

#11

Toyota

57

202

running

42/2

$702,091

5

9

#31

Chevrolet

24

202

running

40/1

$559,550

6

37

#27

Chevrolet

2

202

running

39/1

$427,900

7

13

#29

Chevrolet

0

202

running

37/0

$415,261

8

1

#99

Ford

0

202

running

36/0

$403,466

9

12

#20

Toyota

2

202

running

36/1

$346,063

10

22

#55

Toyota

2

202

running

35/1

$323,313

11

30

#15

Toyota

0

202

running

33/0

$339,002

12

26

#56

Toyota

7

202

running

33/1

$535,052

13

7

#9

Ford

0

202

running

31/0

$341,858

14

32

#47

Toyota

0

202

running

30/0

$331,196

15

24

#36

Chevrolet

6

202

running

30/1

$296,513

16

3

#14

Chevrolet

2

202

running

29/1

$379,025

17

14

#18

Toyota

0

202

running

27/0

$341,821

18

43

#32

Ford

3

202

running

27/1

$292,200

19

41

#26

Ford

0

202

running

25/0

$292,763

20

21

#6

Ford

0

202

running

0/0

$304,275

21

18

#39

Chevrolet

0

202

running

23/0

$336,221

22

39

#83

Toyota

0

202

running

22/0

$319,945

23

33

#38

Ford

0

201

running

21/0

$309,133

24

6

#78

Chevrolet

2

200

running

21/1

$332,421

25

36

#13

Ford

0

199

running

19/0

$304,746

26

38

#93

Toyota

0

196

accident

18/0

$309,335

27

10

#33

Chevrolet

0

196

running

0/0

$305,788

28

34

#87

Toyota

0

194

running

0/0

$287,363

29

20

#5

Chevrolet

0

189

accident

15/0

$297,988

30

11

#98

Ford

0

189

running

14/0

$292,175

31

19

#1

Chevrolet

0

188

accident

13/0

$318,608

32

23

#2

Dodge

0

187

accident

12/0

$322,295

33

27

#43

Ford

0

187

accident

11/0

$320,986

34

15

#22

Dodge

0

177

running

10/0

$328,325

35

40

#21

Ford

0

164

running

0/0

$283,200

36

35

#42

Chevrolet

0

159

accident

8/0

$312,391

37

42

#30

Toyota

0

156

engine

7/0

$282,075

38

29

#10

Chevrolet

0

138

running

0/0

$281,715

39

28

#51

Chevrolet

0

113

running

5/0

$277,913

40

16

#24

Chevrolet

1

81

engine

5/1

$317,549

41

17

#7

Dodge

0

25

engine

3/0

$268,150

42

8

#48

Chevrolet

0

1

accident

2/0

$327,149

43

25

#34

Ford

0

1

accident

1/0

$267,637

3 thoughts on “Matt Kenseth Wins Crazy Daytona 500

  1. Great recap Jason, I missed most of the 500 because I was at school but I agree that it was very bizarre, especially the JPM collision with the jet dryer. The tweeting from drivers, especially Brad's during the red flag were nice to read.

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