Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jimmie Johnson scores second Daytona 500 win in 400th career start

Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Jimmie Johnson held off a hard-charging Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win his second Daytona 500 in his 400th career start. The five-time champion notched his 61st career win to start his 12th full season in Cup racing. Owner Rick Hendrick now has seven victories in the Great American Race.

"It is just awesome," Johnson exclaimed. "There's no other way to describe it. Four hundred starts, every one of those starts with Lowe's and Hendrick Motorsports. To be the first to win in a Gen-6 car, and that car is a Chevy SS, just a very proud moment."

As yet another last-lap crash played out behind them, Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin combined to push past polesitter Danica Patrick and Greg Biffle. Earnhardt Jr. got close to Johnson, but had to settle for second place with Martin finishing right behind him in third. Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five.

Martin explained the apparent difficulty the cars had in running on the bottom line. "One of the things that made it hard to pass is that they wouldn't get organized on the bottom." He went on to say that once they established a group on the bottom that was just as competitive as the high line. Martin quipped, "We told 50 Cent if we won the race he'd have to change his name to '55 Cents' for one day."

Biffle ran second for a long while but wound up sixth. Regan Smith brought home a seventh-place finish for Phoenix Racing, and Danica Patrick made history with the highest-place finish of any female driver in the Great American Race. Janet Guthrie finished 11th in 1980. Patrick also led five laps, the first woman to do so.

When asked about the achievement, Patrick said, "Only 13 people, including me, have led both Indy and Daytona. I thought that was a much cooler stat."

Patrick was also the highest-finishing rookie in the race.

Rounding out the top ten were Michael McDowell, who came from 38th to 9th for Phil Parsons Racing and JJ Yeley coming from 41st to give Tommy Baldwin Racing a 10th-place finish.

The race featured 28 lead changes among 14 leaders, and was slowed by six cautions, two for debris.

While there were four accidents in the 500-mile race, none of those crashes came from any particularly risky moves from the drivers. On Lap 34 a nine-car incident started with Kyle Busch bumping into and turning Kasey Kahne and took many strong contenders out of the running. Victims included Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Casey Mears, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Kurt Busch.

On Lap 139 Trevor Bayne tapped Keselowski triggering another nine-car pileup that also collected Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Terry Labonte, Austin Dillon, Josh Wise, David Gilliland and Carl Edwards.

The 55th running of the Daytona 500 featured mostly single-file racing. Several drivers expressed frustration at not being able to make a move, but given the number of crashes resulting from attempting to switch lanes or block, they chose to stay in line.

"Too much risk vs. reward," Earnhardt Jr. said. However, he also said, "I thought the car put on a really good show all week. The car proved at the end of this Daytona 500 it will put on a good show." He didn't think making changes to the car was the right tack since the track itself will change, as will their understanding of the way the car runs.

Martin agreed with Earnhardt's take. "I'm very pleased...I had a sick feeling all morning about what happened yesterday with the fans, which is something we cannot have happen," he said. "I was happy today that we were able to race and not have a huge accident. They probably will in July, and I'll be on the couch." Martin declined to make any prediction as to where he'll be for the 2014 Daytona 500.

Complete finishing order (starting position in parentheses):

1. (9) Jimmie Johnson

2. (19) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

3. (14) Mark Martin

4. (15) Brad Keselowski

5. (34) Ryan Newman

6. (5) Greg Biffle

7. (40) Regan Smith

8. (1) Danica Patrick

9. (38) Michael McDowell

10. (41) J.J. Yeley

11. (10) Clint Bowyer

12. (28) Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

13. (26) Aric Almirola

14. (35) Denny Hamlin

15. (23) Bobby Labonte

16. (42) David Reutimann

17. (30) Dave Blaney

18. (24) Marcos Ambrose

19. (21) Joey Logano

20. (2) Jeff Gordon

21. (16) Paul Menard

22. (29) Michael Waltrip

23. (31) Scott Speed

24. (37) Martin Truex Jr.

25. (43) Travis Kvapil

26. (39) Terry Labonte

27. (33) Trevor Bayne

28. (11) Kurt Busch

29. (17) Casey Mears

30. (18) Jeff Burton

31. (8) Austin Dillon

32. (20) Jamie McMurray

33. (36) Carl Edwards

34. (4) Kyle Busch, Toyota

35. (22) David Ragan

36. (6) Kasey Kahne

37. (12) Matt Kenseth

38. (25) David Gilliland

39. (7) Juan Pablo Montoya

40. (32) Josh Wise

41. (13) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet

42. (3) Kevin Harvick

43. (27) Joe Nemechek


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