Harvick wins wild finish at Daytona
It was a wild one Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway – so wild you had to wonder whether there were going to be any cars running at the finish.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings leader Kevin Harvick won the last race on the track’s current pavement after running up front all night. He managed to dodge the on-track fireworks that littered the Coke Zero 400 Presented by Coca-Cola from start to finish, a race that set a new event record with 18 different leaders and may spark conversation for years.
The 2.5-mile Daytona track is scheduled for repaving beginning immediately, but the old worn-out asphalt went out with a bang that left more than half the field beat-up and battered.
The stage for a green-white-checkered finish was set with one lap to go when two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish, Jr., lost control of his Dodge and clipped Kurt Busch, causing a lot of damaged to both cars.
Harvick’s teammate, Clint Bowyer, was leading on the restart but got tangled up down the backstretch and spun out of contention. It was a tough, tough break for Bowyer, who had appeared to be heading for his first Daytona victory.
Kasey Kahne finished second and Jeff Gordon third behind Harvick. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was fourth after running poorly most of the night. Jeff Burton was fifth after being involved in a multi-car crash that red-flagged the race for 19:34. More than 20 cars were involved in this accident, which had debris scattered for more than half-a-mile on the track. In fact, many of the frontrunners in the race were eliminated, including Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, four-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman and others.
An earlier accident with less than 60 laps remaining knocked another contender out of the race. Kyle Busch was leading when he drifted up across the nose of Montoya, turning Busch's Toyota into the outside wall and ending his chances.
The fact that Earnhardt finished fourth was testament to the fact that many of the fast cars were damaged in the huge wreck.
Carl Edwards finished sixth, followed by Kurt Busch, whose Dodge looked like a candidate for the junkyard. Busch was involved in several of the accidents.
Rounding out the top 10 were Reed Sorensen, Mike Bliss and Scott Speed.
The cars roared to life after a 90-minute rain delay. Johnson, Harvick and Kyle Busch led before a 15-lap competition caution allowed crews to check tire wear. Two cars were already back in the garage, those of Dave Blaney and Max Papis.
When racing resumed, Harvick and Biffle were up front, followed by the Busch brothers. Harvick and Kyle Busch barreled to the front a couple laps later. At 30 laps, Harvick still led with Busch in tow. Sadler was third, followed by Truex, Keselowski, Burton, Kurt Busch, Biffle, Johnson and Reutimann. Truex led briefly before Kyle Busch took over. Sadler then led but Kyle Busch made an unscheduled stop with a wheel problem.
By Lap 32, Busch was leading again. Reutimann had raced into second place. Hornish led Lap 42 before Sadler went back to the front. Drivers were racing every lap like it was the final lap and the crowd of close to 100,000 loved every minute of it. Johnson pitted on Lap 48 with a tire problem. Hornish had taken the lead at 50 laps from Sadler. Montoya had moved from 22nd to third and Kurt Busch was close behind. Gordon was next and Reutimann was sixth. Burton was next.
A debris caution fell on Lap 58. When the green flag waved again on Lap 63, it was Montoya out front followed by Gordon, Sorensen, Keselowski, Sadler, Hornish, McMurray, Reutimann, Truex and Newman, who was cracking the top 10 for the first time in the race.
AJ Allmendinger brought out another caution on Lap 67 when he spun off Turn 4 in the short chute and hit the inside wall.
On the 70th lap restart, Gordon led with Keselowski on the outside. One lap later, Keselowski took the lead with Gordon challenging and Gordon went by half-a-lap later. Montoya moved into second. A lap later, Montoya led and then Hamlin charged out front after starting in the back of the pack.
At the halfway point of 80 laps, Hornish led with a gaggle of chargers right behind. Kenseth had moved to second with Johnson third. Rounding out the top 12 were McMurray, Hamlin, Montoya, Gordon, Kyle Busch, Reutimann, Burton, Kurt Busch and Edwards.
* Denotes Rookie
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