DAYTONA- The 2012 Daytona 500 will be remembered as a race of waiting. The biggest race of the year was postponed from Sunday to Monday at noon, the first ever postponement in the history of the marquee event. Then, NASCAR officials decided to change the start time from noon to 7 P.M. EST due to continued rain throughout the day on Monday. Once the green flag dropped, fans and drivers weren’t expecting another 2 hour delay, but got one after Juan Pablo Montoya lost control of his car and wrecked into a safety truck causing an explosion in turn 3 with 40 laps to go. Brad Keselowski would set a first while under the red flag when he took a picture of the fire from is car and tweeted the pic on his twitter account. Apparently, NASCAR doesn’t have rules when it comes to cell phones in the car and Keselowski took full advantage, as his twitter followers nearly tripled while under the red flag. Once the track was fixed and racing resumed, the Daytona 500 was finally won by Matt Kenseth, who held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle to the finish line early Tuesday morning.
The race didn’t take long to get its first wreck after Elliot Sadler ran into the back of Jimmie Johnson causing Johnson to spin in the wall starting a six-car accident on lap 2. Trevor Bayne, last year’s winner, and Danica Patrick were also involved in the wreck ending a very disappointing weekend for Patrick. Danica went for the trifecta wrecking in all 3 races she participated in this weekend and would finish 38th due to the wreck. Johnson would be hurt most by the accident as he wouldn’t return to the race and finished 42nd. Because Johnson failed first inspection of Speedweeks, the 2 points he would have received for his 42nd place finish will most likely be negated to zero heading to Phoenix. Johnson wasn’t the only other Hendrick superstar to have a disappointing 500; on lap 87, Jeff Gordon’s engine blew up forcing him out of the race and to a 40th place finish.
With fewer than 50 laps to go, the race was under caution, which was caused by Michael McDowell. While under caution, Montoya hit a safety truck causing an explosion and a huge fire on turn 3. The race was red flagged and delayed for over 2 hours. The race was in question depending on the track conditions and weather approaching Daytona. If the race was called, it would be an official race because they had passed the half-way point. The leader at the time was Dave Blaney and the only man hoping that the race would not resume. Blaney stayed out till the one-to-go sign so he could lead a lap and found himself in position to win the Daytona 500. However, NASCAR was able to repair the track and race would resume. Blaney was forced to pit along with 3 others and when the green flag dropped, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle took over the lead.
The Daytona 500 wouldn’t have been complete without late race wrecks and that is exactly what happened. Jamie McMurray lost control of his vehicle with fewer than 15 laps to go causing him to slide up the track hitting Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski. Kahne now became the third Hendrick car knocked out of the race with Junior the last standing. Once the race resumed, Kenseth and Biffle jumped out to the lead again hoping for green flag racing for the remaining handful of laps. That wouldn’t be the case after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran up on Joey Logano causing a collision that forced Stenhouse into Tony Stewart. Stewart would spin off the track but not before clipping Kyle Busch sending Busch into the grass as well. The defending Sprint Cup Champion Stewart would finish the race 16th and Kyle Busch would follow finishing 17th. The caution would set up the green white checkered to decide the Daytona 500.
The race was dominated by Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle and the only two cars that have shown enough speed to compete with them were Junior and Denny Hamlin. Once racing resumed, Kenseth for the second straight restart, jumped out in front going high on the track briefly to connect with teammate Greg Biffle. Junior was on the bumper of Biffle and Hamlin was fading back as they took the white flag. Junior was desperately trying to give Biffle a push to start a run but nothing would ever develop. As they came to the checker, Junior abandoned the push and attempted to pass Biffle on the outside which secured Kenseth to win his second Daytona 500 (2009). Junior was able to pass Biffle and finish 2nd with Biffle finishing 3rd.
At the end of the race, Junior said he was waiting for Biffle to make move but just never did. Biiffle said he was trying to back off to get a good run on Kenseth but couldn’t slow Junior down. Kenseth felt that Biffle did what would give them both the best finish for Roush Racing. In the end, Matt Kenseth is now a two time Daytona 500 winner and the driver who wins the race that was postponed by fire and water. NASCAR now will head out west to Phoenix in hopes to having a little bit of a normal weekend of racing.
Kenseth (Winner), Earnhardt Jr. (2nd), Biffle (3rd), Hamlin (4th), Jeff Burton (5th), Paul Menard (6th), Kevin Harvick (7th), Carl Edwards (8th), Logano (9th), Mark Martin (10th)
Stewart (16th), Ky. Busch (17th), Kahne (29th), Keselowski (32nd), Patrick (38th), Gordon (40th), Johnson (42nd)