2012-03-01 / Sports

Matt Kenseth Wins Marathon Daytona 500

By Gerald Hodges

Matt Kenseth Matt Kenseth THE RACING REPORTER

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a race that started Monday night at 7 p.m. and ended Tuesday after 1 a.m.

“I didn’t really think I could win,” said Kenseth. “The engine was spewing water early in the race, and I thought we would cook it. I’ve got to thank Greg Biffle, my teammate for sticking with me. This was a team win.”

Kenseth was the leader when green-flag racing resumed on Lap 165 after a caution. His Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Greg Biffle, was lined up on the outside, and the pair were able to get hooked up and pull away from the rest of the field.

Kenseth was still leading when the final caution out on Lap 193, after a six-car pileup involving David Gilliland, Ryan Newman, David Reutimann, Ricky Stenhouse, Dave Blaney, and Tony Stewart.

This set up a green-whitecheckered finish with Kenseth on the inside and Biffle on his outside. Danny Hamlin and Earnhardt were lined up behind them.

Biffle was again able to get behind Kenseth and push him. Dale Jr. got around Hamlin and was on Biffle’s rear bumper for most of the final lap. As the leaders exited Turn 4, Earnhardt pulled out. He barely got by Biffle, but was unable to catch Kenseth before the race ended.

“I could have won it, but Biffle wouldn’t pull out,” said Earnhardt. “I pushed and I pushed him (Biffle), but nothing was happening, so I pulled out. I got him, but no way was I going to get Matt.”

For Biffle, who finished third, it was a team victory.

“I don’t know what happened,” said Biffle. “The 17 (Kenseth) had lots more motor than I did. I wasn’t able to get a run on him.”

Denny Hamlin, Jeff Burton, Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick,

Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, and Mark Martin were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Heavy rain soaked Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, and NASCAR never had a big enough window to dry the track. The race was rescheduled for 12 noon on Monday, but had to be pushed back to 7 p.m. because of persistent showers.

The night’s first wreck occurred right at the start of Lap 2, when Elliott Sadler got into the rear of Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48, and spun him into the outside wall. Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick, Favid Ragan, and Trevor Bayne were caught up in it.

Busch, Patrick and Bayne were able to get their cars repaired and go back racing, but Jimmie Johnson had to call it a night.

“That was a hard lick,” said Johnson. “I don’t know why he (Sadler) got into me so hard. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll go to Phoenix and hope for better luck.”

Martin Truex collected the $200,000 lap bonus for leading the race at the halfway point.

Jeff Gordon lost the engine in his No. 24 Chevrolet and did not finish.

One of the scariest moments of the race came on Lap 160, when under caution, Juan Montoya developed a vibration in his No. 42 and lost control. He slid up the track and hit one of the speedway’s trucks, which was pulling a jet dryer.

The 250-gallon fuel tank on the jet dryer ruptured, sending flames nearly 100 feet into the air, and spilling flaming fuel across the track.

Montoya’s car was burned completely up, but he escaped without any injuries.

NASCAR had to red-flag the race for more than two hours while speedway safety crews extinguished the burning fuel and cleaned up the track.

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