With the exhibition Sprint Unlimited race as the first to debut of NASCAR’s new Gen-6 car, Kevin Harvick, went on to win after a dominating performance for the final 20 lap segment. Harvick led a race-high of 40 out of the 75 laps.
“I’m glad we got Speedweeks started off the right way,” Harvick said after winning Saturday’s night’s non-points race at Daytona International Speedway, for the third time in five years. Harvick joins Tony Stewart and Dale Jarrett as three-time winners of the event. Dale Earnhardt is the all-time leader in wins in the preseason event with six.
With only 19 drivers in the starting field for the race, and after only 15 laps 7 cars were taken out after the early incident when Tony Stewart was running second with a run on Matt Kenseth dove to the inside cutting across the front of Marcos Ambrose, making the slightest of contact, causing Stewart to turn sideways momentarily. With Stewart and Ambrose driving away after managing to save their cars the outside line stacked up behind him, with Denny Hamlin running into the back of Jimmie Johnson, resulting in a nine-car pile-up that ended up dropping the field to 12 remaining cars.
Stewart, took full responsibility for initiating the crash, went on the win the first segment. “I made a move for the lead and was probably a litter anxious too early,” said Stewart. “I was kind of stagnant where I was at and I was having fun moving forward and felt (like) racing. I got a big run on the 20 (Kenseth) and I went to the bottom, I thought I was clear, my spotter did not clear me, I went on my own.”
With Hamlin and Kyle Busch, defending race winner, from Joe Gibbs Racing, Jeff Gordon and Johnson from Hendrick Motorsports, as well as Mark Martin from Michael Waltrip Racing and Kurt Busch from Furniture Row Racing, were wiped out after the damage from the mishap.
“I didn’t see much. I was just cruising along and I saw sparks in front of me, I knew that wasn’t good,” Johnson said.
With two days into Speedweeks, Kurt Busch, has two damaged race cars. Busch’s Furniture Row Racing team was getting assistance from Richard Childress Racing on car repairs to assure Busch has enough in the fleet to be able to run in the Daytona 500.
The fans were able to vote to decide several key competition elements for the Sprint Unlimited, such as the format consisting of 30, 25, and 20 laps with 55 percent choosing this option, fans also voted for the drivers to make a four-tire change during the pit stop between the first and second segment, not to forget fans were given the choice to eliminate drivers, that did not happen.
With the start of the second segment Harvick went on to dominated the final two segments, as he held off opponents Kenseth and Stewart, and Greg Biffle on the final lap to win with his final year at RCR, since Harvick already signed on to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.
Harvick had to have his car pushed into Victory Lane, as he broke the engine trying to do a victory burnout.
Biffle finished second, Joey Logano was third in his first race with Penske Racing, Stewart was fourth and Kenseth finish fifth in his Joe Gibbs Racing debut in the #20.