In a race where most of the passing happened in the final few laps, it was five-time champion Jimmie Johnson who had the best strategy and the best position, winning his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500. Johnson won his first 500 in 2006 and hadn’t finished in the top two dozen since.
His Hendrick Motorsports team mate Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second, ahead of Waltrip Racing’s Mark Martin.
Johnson was the first driver to make the inside lane at Daytona International Speedway work for him repeatedly, taking the lead from Brad Keselowski on lap 187. Johnson couldn’t hold the position the first time but he kept trying, eventually getting ahead and into the faster high groove just as the race’s sixth and final caution flag flew.
Johnson restarted on the outside and then cruised around in the middle of the track for the next three laps, preventing any of his opponents from teaming up to run him down.
On the final lap Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin teamed up to lead a train up the inside to overtake Greg Biffle and Danica Patrick, who were second and third. Johnson dropped down in front of Earnhardt and took over leading the bottom row leaving Biffle and Patrick stuck alone up high. Biffle ended up sixth and Patrick, eighth, a record high finish for a woman in The Great American Race but disappointing for Danica who was poised to push Biffle and herself into the race lead.
The race saw only two serious collisions. An eight-car pileup on lap 33tookoput several front-runners, including Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick. Another big wreck on lap 137 sidelined Carl Edwards, Austin Dillon, and Trevor Bayne.
Matt Kenseth was one of the faster cars for the first three-quarters of the race, leading more than half the laps. On lap 148 three Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing held the top three spots, with Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin controlling the race.
Two laps later Kenseth and Busch were out of the race, felled by transmission and engine failures. Hamlin handed the lead to 2012 Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski during green-flag pit stops on lap 172.
Jeff Burton hit the wall on lap 176 after apparent suspension failure, bringing on a caution period. When the race restarted on lap 181, it was Keselowski leading Johnson. It took the five-time champion several laps to finally get by the defending champion on the inside.
Johnson and Keselowski traded the lead for a few laps until Johnson got lucky when the yellow flag waved for debris on lap 191—Johnson was inches ahead, which gave him lane choice for the restart. The Hendricks driver led the rest of the race.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.