2009-02-19 / Sports

Kenseth Wins Daytona 500

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Matt Kenseth Matt Kenseth DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The 2009 Daytona 500 had many lead changes and dramatic duels between lots of good drivers, but in the end, it was rain and a push from Kevin Harvick that allowed Matt Kenseth to claim the victory.

Kenseth cried tears of joy after NASCAR announced the race was history after 152 of the scheduled 200 laps, and he was the winner.

"I don't mean to cry like a baby, but I just want to thank my team and the Lord for allowing me this opportunity," said Kenseth. It's just an unbelievable feeling."

Kenseth had to start the race from the rear of the field after going to a backup car. He somehow was able to miss a big wreck that occurred on lap 125.

When the racing resumed, crew chiefs told their drivers to try and get to the front of the field, because it wasn't "if" rain was coming, but "when."

Kenseth passed Elliott Sadler with a push from Kevin Harvick on lap 146.

A few seconds later, Aric Almirola spun off the backstretch after Kasey Kahne made contact with him, bringing out another caution.

NASCAR was not able to give the teams the green flag again, because by lap 149, rain was pelting the speedway. Two laps later, it was coming down in sheets.

With Kenseth leading and Harvick second, enough rain had fallen that NASCAR put out the caution flag, and then the red flag, ending the race on lap 152.

"When the rain started we could tell it was going to be with us for at least an hour and a half," said NASCAR President Mike Helton. "With the high humidity, we might not get back to green flag racing until 11 p.m. That's just too late. The fans have seen great competition, and it was time to call it with the rain in the forecast."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brian Vickers were the two cars that touched off the massive wreck on lap 125.

Earnhardt was a lap down, and was trying to pass underneath Vickers. Whether he had enough room to get by is arguable, but when Vickers drove down, Earnhardt ran into the back of Vicker's No. 83.

The resulting wreck involved at least nine cars, including those of Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Robby Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and others.

Later, Vickers said he couldn't understand why Earnhardt wasn't penalized for intentionally hitting him.

"I got a run on him, he saw me coming and I didn't try to wreck him," said Earnhardt in a postrace interview. "He went to block me and hit me and sent me down to the grass.

"I don't hate it for him, but I do for everyone else that got wrecked."

Before the race ended, Earnhardt had radioed to his pit crew that if Vickers wanted to have his "a—" whipped, to meet him in the garage.

A.J. Allmendinger, Clint Bowyer, Elliott Sadler, David Ragan, Michael Waltrip, Tony Stewart, Reed Sorenson, and Kurt Busch rounded out the top- 10 finishers.

Top-10 Sprint Cup leaders after 1 of 36: 1. Kenseth-190, 2. Harvick-170, 3. Allmendinger-165, 4. Bowyer-160, 5. Sadler-160, 6. Ragan-150, 7. Stewart-147, 8. Waltrip 146, 9. Sorenson-138, 10. Truex-135

Stewart is Daytona Nationwide winner

The top-10 Nationwide Series leaders after 1 of 35: 1. Stewart- 190, 2. Edwards-175, 3. Bowyer- 175, 4. Kyle Busch-165, 5. Biffle- 160, 6. Vickers-155, 7. Earnhardt- 146, 8. Keller-143, 9. Ragan-142, 10. Kenseth-139

Bodine takes Daytona truck race

The top-10 Truck leaders after 1 of 25: 1. Bodine-195, 2. Kyle Busch-175, 3. Cook-165, 4. Fitzpatrick 165, 5. Hornaday-160, 6. Skinner-151, 7. Peters-150, 8. Crafton-147, 9. Braun-143, 10. Malsam-134

Give me real mashed potatoes

The bus was late to take me to the track, so I waited on the sidewalk outside my hotel in downtown Daytona Beach, and watched people.

I couldn't help but reflect on what I'd eaten the last two days.

I was raised on fried chicken, turnip greens, red beans and rice, pork chops, ham, fresh vegetables, with either mother's corn bread or biscuits. I still need that kind of food at least once a week. My wife Gloria, keeps me well fed, on fresh Southern staple foods.

Whenever I go to races, it seems like the hotels and restaurants get together and plan menus that are either bland, steak with gristle, or chicken a la heartburn.

The food during this year's trip to Daytona wasn't much different.

Now don't get me wrong, there's a lot of fine folks in central Florida, and they have great seafood, but somebody needs to go down there and teach them about soul food, the real downhome style of Southern cooking.

The previous night, I had gone into a restaurant that advertised Southern cooking. I ordered country-fried steak, fried okra and mashed potatoes. I knew the okra would be frozen, but that was all right.

"Could I get some gravy along with the mashed potatoes," I asked the waitress.

"Sure," she answered.

The steak was passable, and the okra was O.K., but after taking the first bite of the mashed potatoes, I called the waitress back.

"Would you be perfectly honest with me," I said. "These mashed potatoes were poured out of a box, weren't they?"

She gave me a pretty strong look and said, "Well of course, what did you expect?"

It was blasphemy to potato lovers and all Southern mothers.

When I paid the bill I did give the manager a few words about how he ruined the good name of mashed potatoes and Southern cooking

Next week: Everyone needs to walk around Daytona

Weekend racing

All three of NASCAR's major touring series will be at the 2- mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Sat., Feb. 21, San Bernardino 200 Camping World Truck Series Race No. 2; starting time: 3 p.m. (EST): TV: Fox.

Sat., Feb. 21, Stater Bros. 300 Nationwide Series Race No. 2; starting time: 7:45 (EST); TV: ESPN2.

Sun., Feb. 22, Auto Club 500 Sprint Cup Race No. 2, starting time: 6 p.m. (EST); TV: Fox.

Racing trivia question: Who is the driver of the No. 14 Cup car?

Last week's question: How many times did Dale Jarrett win the Daytona 500? Answer. Three times. 1993, '96, and 2000.

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