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A late race surge helped Jimmie Johnson remain in the front of the pack and allowed Johnson to hold off his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr for the Daytona 500 win. This is Johnson’s second Daytona 500 win; he won the 500 for the first time in 2006. A very strung out raced featured lots of great racing and Johnson played the game perfectly to hold up his second Daytona 500 trophy.
Johnson did not get to the front early but, he got there at the end which is all that mattered. Johnson’s teammate Jeff Gordon led the race on lap one and Gordon stayed out front for much of the first portion of the race. The first caution of the race came out on lap 26 for debris on the backstretch. Gordon held the lead after the pit stops under the caution but, Jimmie Johnson got his first glance at the lead on lap 32. Johnson’s lead was brief since the second yellow-flag came out one lap after he took the lead.
The second caution was for the first “big one” of the day. When the leaders checked-up on the exit of the tri-oval, Kyle Busch had nowhere to go since he had a run so Busch got into the back of Kahne and Kahne spun down in front of the field. When Kahne spun down the track, he got into Juan Pablo Montoya who was hit from behind by Brad Keselowski. Kevin Harvick also got involved when Mark Martin got into the back of him and Harvick went down the track and then back up again and he tagged Tony Stewart and Casey Mears. Stewart had a ton of damage and his hopes of a Daytona 500 win will have to wait until next year.
Kyle Busch commented on the accident over his radio by saying “I don’t know why we were checking up on the exit of the tri-oval.” The check-up created the whole accident. One other driver was involved that I didn’t mention earlier and that’s Jamie McMurray.
Matt Kenseth took his first lead of the day on lap 38 and for the next part of the race; Kenseth would hold the lead. Denny Hamlin made his way to the lead after the first round of green flag pit stops which occurred on lap 70.
A historical moment for NASCAR occurred on lap 90 when Danica Patrick took the lead and became the first woman to lead a lap in the Daytona 500. Patrick had a great run all day and she was in contention for the win for much of the race. She ended up finishing in eighth and her season is off to a great start.
Fast forward through the mid-part of the race and we arrive at the second “big one” of the day. The wreck occurred with 63 laps to go and it began when the cars in this line slowed which created a chain-reaction and Trevor Bayne got into the back of Brad Keselowski, turning Keselowski on the apron but, Keselowski was able to save his car. Josh Wise hit Bayne from behind and that contact turned Bayne into the wall and other cars started to pile-in. Carl Edwards was also involved and Edwards is now glad SpeedWeeks is over since he wrecked in five events in the duration of the last month. Other drivers involved in the wreck include Terry Labonte, Austin Dillon, David Ragan, David Gilliland and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The high point of the race for JGR was with 53 laps to go when all three of JGR’s cars were running one-two-three. That changed very quickly. All three of the cars were still running in the top three but, the leader of the trio (Matt Kenseth) had engine issues and he needed to pit with 51 laps to go. Well, JGR is down one car since Kenseth went behind the wall but, they still have the top two spots secured. More problems came for JGR just two laps after Kenseth’s incident when Kyle Busch had engine issues and he went behind the wall. Now, JGR has Denny Hamlin and that’s it. Hamlin couldn’t do much without his teammates so he just hung around for the rest of the race and he ended up finishing 14th.
The final pit stops were made under the green flag with 28 laps to go. Once most drivers cycled through their stops, Jeff Burton brought out the caution with 24 laps to go. Burton had a tire issue and he hit the outside wall just before the tri-oval. As the field came to the restart, Brad Keselowski led the outside line with Jimmie Johnson battling him on the inside. The two battled side by side for laps to come and when the caution flew for debris with nine to go, Johnson was out front. That was the major turning point in the race.
Johnson led on the restart and he stayed out front for the final few laps. On the last lap, a wreck in turn two occurred involving Travis Kvapil, Joey Logano and Paul Menard but, NASCAR let the driver’s race to the finish. No driver would make a move until Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a move entering turn three. Earnhardt Jr. had Mark Martin behind him and Martin pushed Earnhardt Jr. right up to Johnson. The move came too late and Earnhardt Jr. was unable to get around Johnson in the final yards before the finish line. Johnson crossed the line first to win his second Daytona 500.
Hendrick Motorsports and Jimmie Johnson’s No.48 team are now back on top of the NASCAR world for the next few days until we get to Phoenix. Johnson had a great late-race surge to put him back in victory lane for the second time at Daytona. This Daytona 500 was Johnson’s 400th Cup Series start and he celebrated that accomplishment in style by winning the biggest race of the year. This is Chad Knaus’s first Daytona 500 win since he was suspended when Johnson won in 2006. A huge celebration is now scheduled for everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. A great Daytona 500 ended with a familiar face in victory lane. Johnson had done it again and he is once again king of Daytona. Johnson is the 2013 Daytona 500 champion.