[box] Article first published as Matt Kenseth Wins Explosive Daytona 500 on Technorati.[/box]
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. – Matt Kenseth survived rain, fire, engine overheating and a fast charging Dale Earnhardt Jr., to win the 54th running of the Daytona 500, his second victory in the Great American Race.
At the finish line it was Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Greg Biffle. Denny Hamlin took 4th and Jeff Burton rounded out the top five. Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Joey Legano and Mark Martin filled in the top-ten.
Sunday rain pushed the race to Monday and then to late Monday. Drivers nerves were tweaked tighter than a Carolina wino when the race finely went off at 7:00 pm. One lap into the event five-time champ Jimmie Johnson ended up in the outside wall bringing out the first caution. It was a short race for Johnson.
The crash set the tone for the rest of the race as drivers threw caution to the wind and drove hard from flag to flag. The second caution came out on lap 13 when Ryan Newman looped his racecar in the middle of the pack. He was able to restart the car and get going.
Caution number 5 came out on lap 64 for debris on the track and the next on lap 81 when former champion Jeff Gordon exploded an engine going into turn three shattering his hopes for another Daytona win.
Martin Truex Jr., was the leader at the halfway mark and took home the $200,000 bonus.
Clint Bowyer brought out the next caution on lap 129 when his car stalled in the second turn. On lap 157 David Stremme blew an engine and spun in front of a small pack of cars and was lucky to come through as the only victim.
On lap 157, with the race still under caution, Juan Pablo Montoya had mechanical issues on the backstretch and lost control of his race car. Montoya collided with a jet dryer working on cleaning debris up by the outer wall. The violent crash ruptured the jet-fuel cell which exploded in heavy flame.
The event brought the race to a complete stop as firefighters and safety crews quickly went to work to extinguish the fire and protect the racing surface. All in all the cleanup took nearly two hours to complete.
When the race resumed on lap 166 Matt Kenseth was the leader and for the next 34 laps nobody presented a serious challenge.
The race ended on a green-white-checker finish on lap 202 with Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., and Greg Biffle, the top 3 cars.