The Daytona 500, ‘The Great American Race’ at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, Florida didn’t disappoint those with patience or a hefty tolerance for crashing and bizarre incidents. The race was scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. but owing to rain and crashes was delayed to an exciting finish at about 1 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was prophetic the day before the scheduled start of the race when he said, “Everybody always told me to be patient and it drove me crazy hearing that, but they were right.”
The 500-mile, 202 lap race doesn’t need a 36-hour time frame to complete, but the 2012 race, the first to be postponed in 54 years, needed all of that. Most of that time was devoted to dodging rain drops, but a few hours were consumed by crashes.
One bizarre crash between the No. 42 car of Juan Pablo Montoya and a jet dryer during lap 160 caused abundant flames that were fortunately extinguished quickly. Clean up took nearly two hours.
Multi-car crashes during lap 188 and 196 damaged 11 race cars, but despite the calamities 22 cars completed the race on the lead lap.
Matt Kenseth held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. to finally win the 54th Daytona 500.
The top five finishers were not too tired to speak out.
1. Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Ford)
“My patience was tested a lot. It is almost two o’clock in the morning,” Kenseth said. “We have been here almost two weeks.
“We even went overtime a little bit, since we didn’t quite go the whole distance the first time we won it.
“You never expect to come down here and win but I didn’t expect to be as strong as we were down here. I am real anxious to get to the next few tracks and see how we are.”
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)
“I run second here a lot,” Earnhardt said. “So I know I don’t feel it right now, but I know later tonight and tomorrow and the rest of the week, it’s going to eat at me what I could have done to win the race. So that is kind of frustrating.
“You bring such a nice car down here, and the chance of you tearing it up is pretty high. Odds are always kind of high you get caught up in something like we saw at the end of the race.
“It was a little bit of a bizarre week with the rain and all that. But you know, we stuck around and got it all done.”
3. Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford)
“The weather down here has been kind of unusual the entire time,” Biffle said. “You always expect a few rain showers but that was more than we have seen down here in a long time. It was unfortunate it got delayed but I think the race went pretty well and I hope that a lot of people got to see it.
“We have been cooped up for 13 days. I tell you what, the last two days sitting over there in the rain, I have had my fill. I was ready to race, you know? You get all that adrenaline and excitement and you just kind of sit around.
“Coming out of here with a third place finish is really exciting for us. More importantly, we didn’t wreck and we got a good finish.”
4. Denny Hamlin (No 11 Toyota)
“We had an awesome effort this weekend,” Hamlin said. “We didn’t qualify that well. We didn’t finish that well in the Duel, but we showed that we had one of the best cars today.”
“It’s so hard (two-hour delay) because you’re basically starting another race, but it’s just a shorter distance. It’s hard to kind of get back in that mindset of what you have to do and keep focused. We did a really good job today.”
5. Jeff Burton (No. 31 Chevrolet)
“In the past, we could get tandemed-up a lot better,” Burton said. “NASCAR did a great job. To be honest, I didn’t think they could make these kinds of chances. But they did and they did a great job of breaking up the tandem. It made it for a completely different race.”
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from official release materials provided by NASCAR and team representatives.