Jimmie Johnson has won the 55Th running of the Daytona 500; this is his 61st victory in 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts. With the victory today Johnson is the sixth driver to win in his 400th start, the others were Lee Petty, winning at Heidelberg Raceway in 1960; Richard Petty at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway in 1968; David Pearson at Dover in 1973; Dave Marcis at Richmond in 1982; Dale Earnhardt at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1992.
This is Johnson’s second victory for the Daytona 500, he is now the 10th driver with multiple wins for the Daytona 500, the first being in 2006, when while crew chief Chad Knaus was suspended.
“This is an amazing thing; but from my standpoint just being able to compete and battle for this win today was a lot of fun,” said Knaus after the win in Victory Lane. “To see Jimmie drive the way he did it was a ton of fun.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, finished second, giving Rick Hendrick his third 1-2 finish for the Daytona 500. Mark Martin, driver of the #55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota finished third. Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, with a torn up car finish fourth. And Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet, rounded out the top five.
The first large crash happened at lap #28 when Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota, appeared to tag the left rear quarter panel of Kasey Kahne’s #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet in the drafting pack, causing Kahne to spin.
“The guys in front of me were all checking up, I was trying not to run over Jeff (Gordon) and I could feel a lot of momentum right there,” said Kahne. “Kyle was probably feeling the same momentum from behind and hit me, which shot me to the infield. There were a lot of cars close together.”
As Kahne went sideways, he collected some of the big name drivers in a nine-car accident. Brad Keselowski received substantial damage, as did Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray. Casey Mears and Kurt Busch were also involved in the accident.
In the closing laps Keselowski, with a heavily damaged car, was able to hold off Johnson, who was on the inside lane, but on Lap 191 a caution came out for debris as Johnson inched to the lead, rearranging the racing lines for the restart.
Johnson took the lead on the restart, leading Greg Biffle, Patrick and Earnhardt Jr. on the outside lane. Johnson took the white flag with the field in single file behind him, as the field came into turn 1, cars started wrecking but no caution was thrown, as Earnhardt Jr. started to let his car back up to Martin, coming down the back stretch Earnhardt Jr. and Martin made their move and came up on the inside from 4th and 5th respectively Johnson went down to block coming into turn 4 and went on to win.
“I couldn’t have done much without Mark helping me here at the end. I was hoping he was thinking what I was thinking as we come off of turn two on that last lap. I felt like we needed to make the move a little earlier than off of four,” Earnhardt Jr. said. I kept backing up, backing up, trying not to let guys get racing behind us too much. Once we come off of two, mashed the gas, got a run on Danica, side-drafted her a little bit, we got through three and four with a pretty good run, once we come to turn four, we kind of run out of steam, and didn’t have enough to get a run on Jimmie.”
Danica Patrick, who won the pole position last Sunday, led for 5 laps, became the first female driver to lead a lap in the Daytona 500, she is also the first female driver to score a top-10 finish in the Daytona 500, and the previous highest finish by a female was Janet Guthrie’s 11th place finish in 1980. Patrick was also the highest finishing rookie finishing the race in 8th place.
The next race will be the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway televised on FOX at 3 p.m. eastern time.