Jamie McMurray held off a hard-charging Dale Earnhardt Jr to win a thrilling Daytona 500 that was delayed nearly two hours thanks to a pothole that required patching twice. McMurray, reunited with team co-owner Chip Ganassi, restarted on the outside of the front row in the second attempt at a green-white-checkered flag finish. He used a push from Greg Biffle to power to the lead.
Mean while, Earnhardt Jr restarted in 10th with two laps to go. On the backstretch, he made it three-wide passing Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick. He then dove low, passing Martin Truex Jr. He got a shot from David Reutimann and used his momentum to make a daring move between Clint Cowyer and Greg Biffle. He got a little squirrely, but still pulled off the pass. He ran out of time to pass McMurray, and settled for a second plce finish.
Top 5: McMurray, Earnhardt Jr, Biffle, Bowyer, and Reutimann.
Truex Jr, Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Edwards, and Juan Montoya rounded out the top 10.
Notables: Jeff Burton (11th), Mark Martin (12th), Kyle Busch (14th), Brian Vickers (15th), Denny Hamlin (17th), Tony Stewart (22nd), Kurt Busch (23rd), Jeff Gordon (26th), Kasey Kahne (30th), and Jimmie Johnson (35th).
Johnson lost a tire after hitting the pothole that caused the delay. Later, he had another problem that forced him to the garage early. He finished 35th. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon got nudged by Denny Hamlin on the last lap. The contact sent him up the track, and cut down his tire. He spun and collected Robby Gordon. He finished 26th.
Give a call to AJ Allmendinger, who had a strong car and led a few laps. He was shuffled back in the field thanks to put strategy and a pit road problem. He later crashed and finished 32nd. Paul Menard and Michael Waltrip also deserve a call. Menard hung out in the middle and managed a 13th-place finish. Waltrip stayed neared the back, but made a run up to 18th in the end.
I’m sure NASCAR breathed a huge sigh of relief as Dale Jr made the race interesting in the final two laps. If not for the slicing and dicing Jr performed over those last laps, fans might have been more annoyed by the delays caused by the pothole. But, as we all know, when Jr performs well, the bulk of the fans are pleased. And, his driving all but single handedly made the entire race worth it for those fans.