Matt Kenseth wins Daytona 500

NASCAR

Roush Fenway Ford team-mates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle controlled the final 100 miles of this year’s Daytona 500 on Monday night after a day and a half of rain delays.

Kenseth, Biffle and team-mate Carl Edwards enjoyed the strongest cars at Daytona this year and Kenseth and Biffle worked together over the final few restarts with Kenseth setting the pace all the way as he scored his second Daytona 500 victory. Kenseth last won the Daytona 500 in 2009 and was NASCAR’s Sprint Cup champion in 2003.

“We had a lot of problems today but we also had a really fast car,” Kenseth said. “We had an engine spewing water and we had a little bit of a fuel problem. We lost fuel pressure and we lost our radios too. I could talk but they couldn’t hear me. But what a good race. I really have to thank Greg Biffle. He did a great job working with me and we both had really fast rockets. It just ended up whoever was in front was going to win. Greg pushed me and we got going so fast nobody could catch us.”

Kenseth’s team-mate Biffle was passed on the final sprint off the last turn to the chequered flag by Dale Earnhardt Jr. who finished second with Biffle taking third and Denny Hamlin finishing fourth. Pole winner Edwards survived a couple of incidents, including one near the end which put him to the tail of the leaders for the final restart and he did well to come home eighth.

The 500 has been cut short by rain four times, but this was the first time in 54 years that the race was postponed and run a day late. Usually, the weather in Daytona in February is sunny and warm, known as ‘Bill France weather’, but not so this year. Constant drizzle on Sunday gave way to a few cloudbursts and a fresh shower just after 5 o’clock meant the soaked track and drenched grass infield were out of business for the rest of the afternoon and night.

That evening NASCAR announced the race would start at noon on Monday but more rain overnight and persistent showers on Monday morning resulted in NASCAR putting the start back to 7pm. The 500 would run under the Speedway’s lights and be televised live in prime time.

The race started badly when Elliott Sadler clouted Jimmie Johnson in the tail, initiating a multi-car accident that took out five-time champion Johnson. Accidents and incidents continued throughout the race with second-level stars Denny Hamlin, Kenseth, Biffle and Jeff Burton doing most of the leading before an extraordinary collision occurred just before the 400-mile mark.

While running under the yellow, with jet dryers working on the track, Juan Pablo Montoya suffered a transmission failure as he approached the jet dryer. Suddenly his car slewed to the right and shot up the track, clouting the jet drier squarely. Both Montoya’s car and the jet dryer burst into flames and while Juan Pablo was quickly able to scramble out of his comprehensively wrecked car it took a few minutes to put out the fire emanating from 200 gallons of burning jet fuel.

The race was red-flagged while the incinerated jet dryer was removed and track workers started sweeping and cleaning the burnt strip of track. The red flag lasted for over two hours and the race was restarted just before midnight, finishing a little after 1 am.

Kenseth’s win was the 300th for the Roush Fenway team in NASCAR’s top three divisions. Roush Fenway have scored 126 wins in the first division Sprint Cup series, 124 in the second division Nationwide series and 50 wins in the third division Truck series.

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