Matt Kenseth wins Daytona 500 after fire and rain
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Matt Kenseth won his second Daytona 500 late Monday night, holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. to end one of the more bizarre races in NASCAR history.
Kenseth had Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle lined up behind him on the final restart, and Biffle played the role of dutiful teammate for the two laps of overtime. Earnhardt pulled out behind Biffle as they closed in on the finish line but couldn't catch Kenseth.
It was an anticlimactic ending after rain postponed the race for the first time in its 54-year history from Sunday to Monday. Then came a frightening fire when Juan Pablo Montoya hit a safety truck, causing a two-hour delay.
Journeyman driver Dave Blaney was leading the race when the truck, which holds 200 gallons of jet kerosene, burst into flames. Montoya's car slid into the grass, and he gingerly climbed from it as fire trucks rushed to the scene. The inferno raged on, and NASCAR red-flagged the race with 40 laps remaining.
NASCAR officials examined the surface while cleaning the track to determine whether the race could continue. Jet fuel poured down the surface of Turn 3 at Daytona International Speedway, creating a fiery lasting image of NASCAR's biggest race of the year.
A wild and wacky ride began right from the drop of the green flag when five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, former IndyCar driver Danica Patrick and defending race champion Trevor Bayne were involved in a wreck on lap two.
Elliott Sadler nudged Johnson from behind, turning his No. 48 Chevrolet into the wall and collecting several other cars. David Ragan slammed hard into Johnson's spinning car.
Johnson is done for the night and says he's "really, really bummed to start the season this way."
Patrick, Bayne and Kurt Busch also were caught up in the mess.
Ragan asked "what kind of bone head would make a move like that this early" in the 500.
Johnson won five consecutive Sprint Cup championships before finishing sixth last season. Patrick is making her Cup debut after leaving IndyCar after last season. Bayne was the surprise winner of last year's race.
Patrick was coming along behind the accident and was caught in the chaos. She took her car to the garage to repair the damage.
It marked yet another incident in what's been a rocky SpeedWeeks for Patrick. She was wrecked in Thursday's qualifying race, and after winning the pole for the Nationwide Series race, she was wrecked by JR Motorsports teammate Cole Whitt.
Her tally is three wrecks in three races, and none were of her doing.
Jeff Gordon was the next surprise exit, blowing an engine on lap 81.
Martin Truex Jr. picked up a $200,000 bonus for Michael Waltrip Racing by leading at the halfway point of the Daytona 500.
Truex passed Greg Biffle on lap 100 and held off the pack for the big paycheck.
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