Kenseth Wins Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla - With an assist from Mother Nature, Matt Kenseth is a Daytona 500 champion.
Kenseth won his first Daytona 500 in his 10th attempt after NASCAR called the race on lap 152 when rain hit the Daytona International Speedway.
A line of heavy rain descended upon the speedway near the 150 lap mark and when the skies finally opened NASCAR was forced to make the race official and declare the leader Kenseth the winner.
Kenseth passed Elliott Sadler on Lap 146 just before the eighth and final caution came out for a spin on the backstretch by Aric Almirola. The field ran under the yellow for six laps before finally getting called to pit road and at 6:30 p.m. (ET). The race became official after a 20 minute wait.
Kevin Harvick and A.J. Allmendinger were credited with second and third with Clint Bowyer and Elliott Sadler rounding out the top five.
That gave Richard Petty Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing two drivers each in the top five.
David Ragan, Michael Waltrip, Tony Stewart, Reed Sorenson and Kurt Busch completed the first ten finishers.
"To be honest, it really hasn't sunk in," said Kenseth. "I woke up this morning not really thinking I was going to win the Daytona 500. So, you know, especially when you come to a speedway, it's really more about the team than it is about the driver. It's always about the team. Really, they make the cars go fast."
Kenseth was able to give car owner Jack Roush his first career Daytona 500 victory.
"We've been here for more than 20 years trying to do this thing," said Roush. "I even got so conditioned for being frustrated through it that I was almost not believing that it would happen. I will be black and blue for the next couple of days from pinching myself just to make sure I'm not dreaming."
Before the caution flew and rain came to end the race, Kenseth was locked in a tight battle with the leaders after coming from the rear of the field in a back-up car.
"It's just an unbelievable feeling," said Kenseth. "I've had some fast cars, I have just never made the right moves."
One of the most controversial moves came on lap 124 from Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
After falling a lap down from the second of two pit road miscues, Earnhardt, Jr. was racing Brian Vickers for the first car a lap down position.
Vickers forced Earnhardt, Jr. below the yellow out of bounds line and seconds later the No. 88 Chevrolet moved up into the rear quarter panel of the No. 83 Team Red Bull Toyota.
The contact sent Vickers into the retaining all and set off a chain reaction accident that took out ten cars including leader Kyle Busch.
"Junior just turned us," Vickers said. "He just hooked us. To wreck somebody in front of the entire field like that is pretty dangerous."
I think (Jason Leffler) was penalized five laps for doing the same thing," Vickers said. "I guess they're not going to penalize him for it.
"It's kind of sad. To wreck somebody intentionally like that in front of the entire field is really kind of dangerous."
But Earnhardt, Jr. insisted his move was not frustration or retaliation.
I got a run on him. He saw me coming. I got a big ol' run on him and I went to the inside," he said. "I didn't try to make any late move or some surprise. He went to block me and hit me and sent me down to the grass."
"I tried to recover my car and I got back into him coming back up the race track. I don't hate it for him, but (I do) for everyone else that got wrecked."
Busch had led a race-high 88 laps up until that point and lost a chance to win the Daytona 500 on a day when he had one of the best cars in the field.
"One guy that had problems on pit road made his problems our problems, and then our problems a big problem," Busch said. "It was really uncalled for to have two lapped cars to be racing each other and bumping each other like that.â€
The Daytona 500 has been shortened by rain three other times 1965 (332.5 mi.), 1966 (495 mi.) and 2003 (272.5 mi).
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California for next Sunday's Auto Club 500.