DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Jimmie Johnson, who crashed on the first lap of last year’s Daytona 500, made it all the way to the finish of the 55th running of the Great American Race Sunday to win the second Daytona 500 of his career in his 400th career NASCAR Sprint Cup start.
It was redemption for Johnson, who had not finished better than 27th (twice, 2008 and 2011) since his first career Daytona 500 victory in 2006, which served as the launching point of his impressive streak of five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championships.
It was also the first victory for the Chevrolet SS in the debut of NASCAR’s sixth generation car.
After the race was slowed by the sixth and final caution for debris, Johnson led a tense final six laps to hold on for the victory. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was runner-up to make it a 1-2 finish for Hendrick Motorsports while Mark Martin, the highest-finishing Toyota, was third.
Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski finished fourth while Ryan Newman rounded out the top 5 with his fifth-place finish.
Danica Patrick, who became the first woman in NASCAR history to win a Sprint Cup pole, added to her growing legacy by becoming the highest-finishing woman in Daytona history with her eighth-place finish. She was running third on the last lap before getting shuffled back in a last-lap scramble for the lead.
Patrick also became the first woman in Daytona history to lead a lap when she went to the front of the field on Lap 90 for two laps, before handing it over to Joey Logano, who led for two laps before yielding to Matt Kenseth, who led four times for 86 laps before dropping out of a lead-draft of six Toyotas on the backstretch of Lap 150 because of an issue with his left front tire.