This year’s Daytona 500 was an epic, delayed by rain for a day and a half and finally run on a Monday evening. Just before the 400-mile mark a bizarre accident occurred under a yellow flag when Juan Pablo Montoya’s car suffered a transmission failure resulting in Montoya slewing into a jet fuel-powered track-drying truck. The collision destroyed Montoya’s car and caused the dryer, containing almost 200 gallons of jet fuel, to explode and burn feverishly for a few minutes. Montoya was unhurt, as was the truck driver, but the track surface and safety barrier were charred and the race was stopped for more than two hours, eventually finishing a little after 1am.
In the end the 2003 NASCAR champion Matt Kenseth came through to win after leading the race’s final 37 laps. Kenseth and Roush Fenway Ford team-mate Greg Biffle enjoyed the fastest cars at Daytona this year and they ran one-two through the closing laps with Kenseth scoring his second Daytona 500 win. Dale Earnhardt Jr chased them and drafted by Biffle to take second at the chequered flag, but couldn’t challenge Kenseth.
“We had a really fast car all day,” Kenseth said. “But we had a lot of adversity to overcome, a lot of problems with the car, and we had a great pitstop at the end that put us in position. It feels great. I wasn’t expecting to win.
“Our car for some reason was a lot faster out front than it was in traffic. It took a long time to get to the front, but once we were there it was hard for any of the others to get locked onto us and to push me. We had enough speed that once we took the white flag I felt okay about it, but I still thought they were going to run past me. But when we got to turn three I knew I had enough speed to win it.
“The car had a lot of speed. Doug Yates and the guys in the engine shop deserve a lot of credit. It really would go through the gears and it was great on all the restarts.”
Kenseth also won his 150-mile qualifying race and team-mates Carl Edwards and Biffle qualified on the front row for the 500. “The testing results over the winter were very encouraging,” said team boss Jack Roush. “We brought better Ford Fusions here than we’ve ever had and we had more power relatively speaking than we’ve ever had. Tonight, Matt had the best car and Greg was unselfish and worked with him and they pulled it off together.”
Roush complimented NASCAR on getting the race restarted following Montoya’s spectacular accident. “It was amazing that NASCAR was able to have enough oil-dry, had enough people trained and were able to save the race track,” he said. “I thought surely the track would be damaged and wouldn’t be suitable to continue the race. But NASCAR and the track’s crew did a great job of saving the race track and having a race for the fans.”