It’s the best place any driver could be in on Sunday afternoon, out front, and in the final lap of the Daytona 500 on Sunday afternoon, Jimmie Johnson let everyone else fight for position as he pulled away for his second victory in the Great American Race.
Johnson, was was making his 400th career start in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, became the 10th driver in history to win multiple Daytona 500s.
He led the final 10 laps, including a wild final lap that had Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rally from fourth to second place and to finish just two car lengths behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
“I had a lot of confidence leading the train,” Johnson said of taking the front position as the remaining cars raced around the 2.5-mile track, mostly in single file. “I knew I had a fast car.”
While it wasn’t one of the most exciting Daytona 500s, it was definitely one for the history books as Danica Patrick, who last week became the first woman to start on the pole for a Sprint Cup race, became the first female to lead a Sprint Cup Race. No those weren’t the first laps of the race, Patrick took the lead on Lap 90. Patrick would finish the race eighth.
“Ran up front all day long, led a little, stayed in the top 10 pretty much,” Patrick said after getting out of her car. “It’s always a little frustrating when you come through and You’re in the top three in the last lap, but I’ll learn more for the next time.”
There were only two wrecks, an astonishing number. The first came on lap 34 when Kyle Busch gave Kasey Kahne a bump heading into the first turn. Kahne turned sideways and collected Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, and the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Brad Keselowski.
After the wreck, Tony Stewart told Fox, “If I didn’t tell you I was heartbroken and disappointed, I’d be lying to you.”
The second came on lap 138 when Keselowski ran into David Reutimann’s car going into turn 1. Seven Fords, including Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., were involved and the lone Chevrolet of Austin Dillion was also involved.
Daytona definitely hasn’t been very nice to Carl Edwards, who has crashed five times including testing, practice, and his Budwesier Duel race.
Despite being involved in both accidents, Keselowski would finish the race fourth.
Matt Kenseth led a race-best 86 laps, and he led a parade of three Joe Gibbs Racing cars at the front when his yellow Toyota belched smoke and rolled to a stop on pit road.
Three laps later, Busch’s engine blew up.
“It’s a little devastating when you are running 1-2-3 like that,” Busch said.
The next race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is next Sunday, March 3, 2013, at Phoenix International Raceway.