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Recapping a wild, weird Daytona 500

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Ryan McGee

 
   
 
As NASCAR Nation continues to gasp for its collective breath following Sunday night's Daytona 500 finish, let's take a look back at the wild, wonderful, and just plain weird from the 49th running of the Great American Race.
  • Kevin Harvick's victory in Dale Earnhardt's former ride came on the sixth anniversary of Earnhardt's death. His pass for the win took place in turn four, the spot of The Intimidator's fatal crash.
  • Harvick's margin of victory, .020 seconds, was not only the closest in Daytona 500 history but the eighth-closest finish at any track since NASCAR instituted electronic timing and scoring in 1993. The seventh-closest was won by Greg Biffle by .017 at Homestead-Miami in 2005. The loser? Mark Martin.
  • Harvick led only four laps, matching the record for fewest laps led by a Daytona 500 winner. The late great Benny Parsons, who was honored during pre-race ceremonies, won the 1975 race leading after only four circuits.
  • Tony Stewart's crash on lap 154 looked frighteningly like Earnhardt's crash and was in nearly the same spot, but safety advancements that took place as a result of that tragedy allowed Stewart to walk away unharmed. In 2002 the SAFER "soft wall" system was installed at Daytona International Speedway, a collapsible barrier that absorbs violent energy away from the car and its driver.
  • Had Mark Martin won the race he would have eclipsed Earnhardt's mark for longest losing streak snapped, ending a career 0-for-22 streak. Instead, he extended his 500 futility to 23 races. The longest active Daytona 500 oh-fers belong to Ricky Rudd, 0-for-29, Kyle Petty, 0-for-26, and Ken Schrader, 0-for-23. Rusty Wallace retired to the broadcast booth after going 0-for-23.
  • Rusty's little brother Mike Wallace finished fourth in the under-funded No. 09 Miccosukee Resorts Chevy. Wallace has posted three top 10 finishes in his last six Daytona 500 starts, matching the same top 10 count of Dale Earnhardt Junior during that span. Of course, Dale Junior also won the race during that time.
  • How instrumental has Mark Martin been in shaping the modern NASCAR world as we know it? Take a look at the situation he found himself in before the last caution of the day. Directly behind him on the track were Matt Kenseth, whom he discovered and at one time co-owned his team, former Roush Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, and rookie David Ragan in Martin's former ride. Biffle was in Martin's old equipment that was vacated when the veteran left for Ginn Racing and Biff's crew chief is Pat Tryson, who was Martin's crew chief from 2004 through last season. Kyle Busch was also a former teammate but for only a split second before bolting to drive for Hendrick Motorsports. His crew chief, Ryan Pemberton, was a teenager trying to break into the sport in 1989 when older brother Robin (now NASCAR VP of Competition) was Martin's original crew chief at Roush. And Jeff Burton, who came out of nowhere to finish third, was Martin's original protégé at Roush.
  • Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch led a combined 129 of the race's 202 laps and posted finishes of 43rd and 41st. Juan Pablo Montoya spent the vast majority of the race riding outside of the draft and a full one mph off the pace and ended up finishing 19th.
  • For finishing last, Stewart pocketed $334,931 thanks to incentive bonuses. That's more than the next 32 drivers ahead of him. The first racer in the rundown to make more was Jeff Gordon, who took home $371,679 for finishing 10th.
  • One year ago, Jimmie Johnson won the Great American Race without crew chief Chad Knaus, who was sent home for a rules violation. This year's chief-less teams finished sixth (Elliott Sadler), seventh (Kasey Kahne), 27th (Matt Kenseth), 30th (Michael Waltrip), and 37th (Scott Riggs).
  • Toyota's much-hyped Nextel Cup premiere finished with a fizzle. Dale Jarrett threatened to climb his way into the top ten late, but was shuffled back to 22nd during the last lap melee. Waltrip was the next highest Camry in 30th. By comparison, Dodge's Daytona debut in 2001 placed three cars in the top 10, led by Bill Elliot's fifth-place run. One year later, Ward Burton had his Dodge in Victory Lane.
  • Chevy won its fifth consecutive Daytona 500, 11th in 15 seasons and 15 out of the last 19. Overall, the Bowtie Brigade leads all car makes with 20 Harley J. Earl Trophies, followed by Ford with ten.
  • Harvick became the fourth driver to win both Daytona Busch and Nextel Cup races in one weekend, joining Bobby Allison (1988), Darrell Waltrip (1989), and Dale Earnhardt Junior (2004). The late LeeRoy Yarbrough did the double in 1969, winning Saturday's late model race.
  • Tony Stewart joined an equally illustrious list of drivers who haven't been able to capitalize on their Daytona domination. Ten times a driver has started the Daytona 500 having already won the Bud Shootout and a Thursday qualifying race ... and 10 times they have come up empty on the big stage.
  • Pole winner David Gilliland overcame mid-race troubles to finish eighth, but furthered yet another futility streak. In the 49-year history of the Daytona 500, only nine drivers have won the race from the pole position and only two since 1987. The last was Dale Jarrett back in 2000, coming with Gilliland's current employer, Robert Yates Racing. Ryan McGee is the managing editor at NASCAR Images.
  • Tagged: Kurt Busch, Kyle Petty, Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Rudd, Dale Jarrett, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Ward Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mike Wallace, David Ragan, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Ken Schrader

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