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Matt Kenseth wins 54th Daytona 500

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff  February 27, 2012 07:07 PM

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Lap 202, End of race

Matt Kenseth won the 54th running of the Daytona 500 in a green-white-checkered finish over runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle, who finished third after getting caught down the home stretch by Earnhardt.

It was Kenseth's second career victory in the Great American Race after he won the 2009 Daytona 500, a race that was shortened by rain. The second time around, Kenseth's victory was protracted when the race was postponed by rain Sunday for the first time in race history and red-flagged for 2 hours 5 minutes 29 seconds with 40 laps to go.

Juan Pablo Montoya lost control of his car on the backstretch as he was running under caution and slammed into the rear end of a jet engine dryer, igniting a massive fireball when the drying apparatus spilled 200 gallons of jet fuel onto the track.

Caution No. 10, Lap 196

Tony Stewart spun in front of heavy traffic coming through the tri-oval and ignited a multi-car melee that enabled the lead 10-car draft to escape unscathed.

With three to go, the Top 5: 1. Kenseth, 2. Biffle, 3. Hamlin, 4. Earnhardt Jr., 5. Burton.

Caution No. 9 Lap 186

Jamie McMurray blew a tire and spun into heavy traffic, triggering an eight-car melee in Turn 1.

The top 5: 1. Kenseth, 2. Biffle, 3. Earnhardt Jr., 4. Hamlin, 5. Harvick.

Restart, Lap 183

Kenseth, with drafting help from Biffle his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, remained in the lead.

Lap 180

Kenseth led under caution with 20 to go.

Caution No. 8, Lap 178

Aric Almirola brought out the eighth caution when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tapped Almirola's right front quarterpanel and collected the lapped car of Casey Mears and Marcos Ambrose, who spun out in the grassy area near Turn 1.

The Top 5: 1. Kenseth, 2. Biffle, 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 4. Kevin Harvick, 5. Denny Hamlin.

Lap 170

Matt Kenseth led with 30 to go. The pace reached a torrid 200 miles per hour.

Restart, Lap 166

Matt Kenseth took the lead when the race was resumed after a red-flag period of 2:05:29.

Red flag, Lap 160

Juan Pablo Montoya lost control of his No. 42 Chevrolet when it developed a vibration and slammed into the rear end of a jet engine dryer,which was slowly creeping along high in Turn 3, causing it to explode in a massive fireball. Jet fuel leaked from the dryer and ignited, causing a massive conflagration that burned out of control until track safety workers and fire rescue personnel finally fought it fought to get under control.

Montoya climbed out of his smoldering wreck, unhurt. The driver of jet engine dryer was assisted from his vehicle and helped down the banking. He was taken to a local hospital to be examined.

Caution, Lap 157

David Stremme blew an engine on backstretch. Field pits under caution. Casey Mears won the race off pit road.

Lap 146

Matt Kenseth just wrested the lead from Logano.

Lap 144

Joey Logano, of Middletown, Conn, took the lead from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.

Caution No. 6, Lap 129

Clint Bowyer runs out of fuel on backstretch. Needs push to the pits from a wrecker.
Tony Stewart, who pitted before the caution came out, assumed the lead when the field pitted. Ryan Newman was the Lucky Dog beneficiary and got the free pass and put him back on the lead lap.

Lap 120

Denny Hamlin leads the race. Hamlin is at the front of a single-file lead draft of six cars.
The Top 5: 1. Hamlin, 2. Truex Jr. 3. Biffle, 4. Burton, 5. Bowyer.

Lap 100, halfway

Martin Truex Jr., with strong drafting support from Denny Hamlin, took the lead at the halfway point. He collected the $200,000 halfway bonus by passing Biffle.

Restart, Lap 90

Greg Biffle leads the race with 10 laps to go to the halfway point and a $200,000 bonus.

Caution No. 5, Lap 88

Terry Labonte got spun out by Marcos Ambrose coming off Turn 4. Labonte kept if off the wall, but got stuck in the mud in the grassy area at the entrance of pit road. Labonte was attempt to go for the halfway bonus. When he was apprised of it by his crew, he radioed back: ``Oh boy. Good way to get wrecked, probably.''

Restart, Lap 86

Terry Labonte led the field on the restart, but his turn at the front was short-lived when Biffle wrested the lead away on Lap 87.

Caution No. 4, Lap 81

Jeff Gordon's engine blew up on the backstretch, bringing out the fourth caution of the race. The field pitted under caution. Terry Labonte is being scored as the leader.

Restart, Lap 68

With 32 laps left before a $200,000 halfway bonus, Greg Biffle takes the lead on the restart, going to the front of a single-file lead draft of eight cars. The top 5: 1. Biffle, 2. Ambrose, 3. KyBusch, 4. Clint Bowyer, 5. Logano..

Caution No. 3, Lap 64

Debris in Turn 2. The top 5: 1. Burton, 2. Biffle, 3. Ambrose, 4. Truex Jr., 5. KyBusch. Landon Cassill is awarded the Lucky Dog and gains a lost lap. The No. 83 will now be at the end of the lead lap in 33d.

Lap 60

A series of green-flag pit stops shuffled the leaders, but Jeff Burton cycled his way back to the front. Marcos Ambrose gained a spot with a strong pit. The top 5: 1. Burton, 2. Biffle, 3. Ambrose, 4. Martin Truex Jr., 5. Kyle Busch.

Lap 50

Jeff Burton continues to run at the front of a single-file draft of eight cars. The top 5: 1. Burton, 2. Bifffle, 3. Menard, 4. Smith, 5. Logano.

Lap 41

Jeff Burton, with tandem drafting support from Biffle, took the lead from Hamlin.

Lap 34

Hamlin continues to lead the pack. Top 5: 1. Hamlin, 2. Menard, 3. Regan Smith, 4. Joey Logano, 5. Jeff Burton.

Restart, Lap 17

Back to green. Menard leads the field, but Hamlin goes by him on Lap 18.

Caution No. 2, Lap 13

Ryan Newman spun in Turn 2 when he had a right rear tire go flat. The field pitted shortly thereafter. Paul Menard and Denny Hamlin, both of whom stayed out on the track, were scored as the top two drivers among the leaders. The top 5: 1. Menard, 2. Hamlin, 3. Aric Almirola, 4. Edwards, 5. Biffle.

Restart, Lap 8

Greg Biffle leads the field. The Top 5: 1. Biffle, 2. Matt Kenseth, 3. Carl Edwards, 4. Tony Stewart, 5. Regan Smith.

Caution No. 1, Lap 2

Shortly after completing the first lap, five cars were involved in a crash in Turn 1. Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson triggered it when his No. 48 Chevrolet got tapped from behind by Elliott Sadler and turned into the wall entering Turn 1. Johnson's car slid across the track and got hit on the driver's side by David Ragan. The cars of Danica Patrick, who was making her Daytona 500 debut, Kurt Busch and Trevor Bayne, the defending Daytona 500 winner, were also collected in the crash.

Patrick's car sustained significant left side damage after she collided with Johnson's car, but she averted even more damage when she threaded the needle between the spinning wrecks of Bayne and Ragan.

"It is ridiculous to sit around this long for the Daytona 500 and on the very first lap for someone to be driving as reckless as whoever caused that, someone had to cause it,'' fumed Ragan, who was scored in 42d-place. ``It is just a shame for it to be that early in the biggest race, the first race of the year. We just got caught up in it. We were content on riding in the beginning and minding our Pís and Qís. They started wrecking in front of us and we just couldnít get out of the way quick enough.''

Kurt Busch, who was scored as the last-place finisher in 43d, fumed over the radio: "Seriously, are we kidding ourselves? We sit around for 36 hours and we wreck on the first lap?"

7:14 p.m.

Green! Green! Green! The 54th Daytona 500 is underway. Outside pole sittter Greg Biffle led the first lap.


Pole sitter Carl Edwards, who captured his first career Daytona 500 pole victory last Sunday, led the field of 43 drivers off pit road at 7:05 p.m. We are set to go racing at Daytona International Speedway.

Danica Patrick (No. 10), Paul Menard (No. 27), David Gilliland (No. 38) and Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42) went to the rear of the field because they went to backup cars. Kurt Busch (No. 51) also went to the back because of an engine change.

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