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Jimmie Johnson wins 2nd Daytona 500

by Pete McCole
Sunday, February 24, 2013

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Jimmie Johnson celebrates his 2nd Daytona 500 win
Getty Images for NASCAR

What a difference a year made for Jimmie Johnson.

After failing to complete two laps in last year’s Daytona 500, Johnson lit a fire on his bid for a sixth championship with his second-career victory in the “Great American Race”, beating out Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to capture the season-opening event for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Johnson held on through a final five-lap charge facing down Greg Biffle and pole sitter Danica Patrick before Earnhardt, Jr. and Mark Martin made a run for the lead on the final lap, but Johnson’s no. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet had the inside line covered and held them off to notch his 61st-career Sprint Cup victory by 0.129sec and his first in the Daytona 500 since 2006 – the year he won the first of his five consecutive Sprint Cup titles.

Defending Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski was fourth, followed by Ryan Newman. Patrick faded on the final lap to finish eighth.

With the victory, Johnson becomes the sixth driver to win in his 400th start, joining Lee Petty, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dave Marcis and Dale Earnhardt.

“It is just awesome.  There's no other way to describe it,” said Johnson. “400 starts, every one of those starts with Lowe's and Hendrick Motorsports.  To be the first to win in a Gen-6 car, and that car is a Chevy SS, just a very proud moment.

"There is no other way to start the season than to win the Daytona 500. I'm a very lucky man to have won it twice. I'm very honored to be on that trophy with all the greats that have ever been in our sport.”

Johnson took the lead with nine laps to go after a spirited 12-lap side-by-side battle with Brad Keselowski, just clearing the no. 2 Miller Light Ford as they crossed the start-finish line when the caution flag waved for sixth time for debris. 

When racing resumed, Johnson took off on the high side with Biffle, Patrick and Earnhardt, Jr. in tow as Keselowski faded to the inside.

The front four remained nose to tail as they came to the white flag just as a crash broke out on the backstretch. NASCAR kept the field under green, as Earnhardt, Jr. dived underneath Biffle and Patrick with Martin and Keselowski following.

Earnhardt, Jr., now running second, looked to have momentum as he came up on, but never had a chance to mount a final challenge for the lead as Johnson beat him to the line by a half car-length.

“We just had a lot of help from Mark Martin at the end,” said Earnhardt, Jr. “We were able to lay back until the last lap on the backstretch there to get enough of a run. We got by a couple of them, but I looked up in the mirror off of (turn) four and Mark (Martin) was back there racing those guys and I lost my help. So when we got to Jimmie (Johnson) we didn't have enough steam.”

Patrick, the first woman to win a pole for the season-opening event, held her own for much of the race, staying out of trouble and leading five laps – the first woman to do so in the Daytona 500 only the second in Sprint Cup history – looking poised to make run at the lead in the final laps, but then got hung out to dry after Earnhardt, Jr. pulled out of line behind her, leaving her and Biffle to free-fall back through the field to an eighth-place finish.

“Ran up front all day long and we led a little. We stayed in the top-10 all day pretty much,” said Patrick. “Had nice pit stops by the GoDaddy crew, the car was fast and it's always a little frustrating when you come through and your top three on that last lap. I will learn more for next time.”

Patrick started on the pole but was quickly overhauled on the opening lap by outside pole-sitter Jeff Gordon, who side-drafted past Patrick to take the lead for the first 31 laps.

Lap 34 saw the first of three multi-car crashes, but the first one took out the most top contenders.

Running in fifth-place on the high side, Kasey Kahne got turned off the bumper of Kyle Busch, setting off a nine-car wreck that collected Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duel winner Kevin Harvick, Nationwide Series Daytona winner Tony Stewart, 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray , Juan Pablo Montoya and Casey Mears while Keselowski skated through with some damage.

Keselowski triggered the second incident of the race on lap 139 when he got sideways of the front bumper of 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne. Keselowski spun down to the turn one apron but got the car straightened out, while behind him Bayne spun and slid up the track, collecting Carl Edwards, Terry Labonte, Austin Dillon and David Ragan.

For Edwards, it was the fifth crash he’d been involved in at Daytona since January testing.

Sunday’s race also took a toll on the Toyota camp, as Matt Kenseth went from leading the race to the garage with mechanical problems, followed just two laps by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, who went out with engine failure. A short time later, Martin Truex, Jr. – driving a Toyota Camry for Michael Waltrip Racing – lost a cylinder while racing in the top five.

The Daytona 500 marked the first points race for the new Gen6 stock car - including new models for all three manufacturers – which was intended to promote more passing and better racing, eliminating the two-car drafting that had dominated restrictor-plate racing in the last two years.

Instead, much of the race was run as a single-file 200mph parade lap, with little passing and most of the lead changes occurring when drivers got shuffled out of line.

“One of the things that made it hard to pass was nobody would get organized on the bottom,” said third-place finisher Mark Martin. “The top groove was the preferred groove.

“The problem was that the car on the inside of the frontline wasn't the fastest car.  If you would have had the fastest car in the field on the inside, you would have had a whale of a race there at the end.”

Fortunately, there were no incidents involving cars getting up into the catch-fence similar to Saturday’s crash in the Nationwide Series race, where the Chevrolet of Kyle Larson was catapulted into the fence in a crash on the final lap.

The crash sent debris from Larson’s car hurtling into the grandstand, injuring nearly 30 spectators and sending 14 to the hospital with serious injuries.

The damaged catch-fence was repaired during the overnight hours and was ready to go in time for the green flag on Sunday.

Results

Fin St. No Driver Team Laps Pts
1 9 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet 200 47
2 19 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard Chevrolet 200 42
3 14 55 Mark Martin Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota 200 41
4 15 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Ford 200 41
5 34 39 Ryan Newman Quicken Loans Chevrolet 200 40
6 5 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford 200 38
7 40 51 Regan Smith(i) Phoenix Construction Chevrolet 200 0
8 1 10 Danica Patrick # GoDaddy Chevrolet 200 37
9 38 98 Michael McDowell K-Love/Curb Records Ford 200 35
10 41 36 JJ Yeley Golden Corral Chevrolet 200 34
11 10 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hour Energy Toyota 200 34
12 28 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. # Best Buy Ford 200 32
13 26 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 200 31
14 35 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota 200 31
15 23 47 Bobby Labonte Kroger Toyota 200 29
16 42 83 David Reutimann Burger King Toyota 200 28
17 30 7 Dave Blaney Florida Lottery Chevrolet 200 27
18 24 9 Marcos Ambrose Stanley Ford 200 26
19 21 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 200 26
20 2 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet 200 25
21 16 27 Paul Menard Menards/Peak Chevrolet 200 24
22 29 26 Michael Waltrip Sandy Hook School Support Fund Toyota 200 23
23 31 95 Scott Speed Leavine Family Racing Ford 200 22
24 37 56 Martin Truex Jr NAPA Auto Parts Toyota 200 20
25 43 93 Travis Kvapil Burger King Toyota 199 20
26 39 32 Terry Labonte C&J Energy Services Ford 199 18
27 33 21 Trevor Bayne(i) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 198 0
28 11 78 Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet 195 16
29 17 13 Casey Mears GEICO Ford 181 15
30 18 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet 176 14
31 8 33 Austin Dillon(i) Honeynut Cheerios Chevrolet 175 0
32 20 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet 161 12
33 36 99 Carl Edwards Fastenal Ford 159 11
34 4 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota 151 10
35 22 34 David Ragan Detail Doctor Ford 150 9
36 6 5 Kasey Kahne Farmers Insurance Chevrolet 150 8
37 12 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General Toyota 149 9
38 25 38 David Gilliland Love's Travel Stops Ford 144 6
39 7 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet 144 5
40 32 35 Josh Wise(i) MDS Transport Ford 137 0
41 13 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet 118 3
42 3 29 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet 47 2
43 27 87 Joe Nemechek(i) MaddiesPlaceRocks.com/D.A.B. Constructors Toyota 42 0

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