51 days to Daytona: Matt Kenseth happy to ‘cry like a baby’

Matt Kenseth has no problem getting wet when it comes to racing in the Daytona 500.

That’s because in the first of his two 500 wins, in 51st running of the Great American Race in 2009, the event was cut short by the rain. He also would go on to win the 500 a second time in 2012.

With just 51 days remaining prior to the 2017 running of the Daytona 500 (televised live on FOX on Feb. 26), let’s take a closer look at Kenseth’s 2009 romp in the rain at the 2.5-mile track.

Kyle Busch started from the pole and led a race-high 88 laps before his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing car became collateral damage in a huge multi-car wreck that occurred when Dale Earnhardt Jr. spun Brian Vickers into traffic toward the end of the backstretch on Lap 124.

Vickers was angry with Earnhardt afterward and accused him of intentionally wrecking him to deliberately try to bring out a caution so he could get back on the lead lap – a charge that Earnhardt denied.

“To wreck somebody intentionally like that in front of the entire field is really kind of dangerous. That’s my biggest problem with it. But, apparently, he wanted a caution pretty bad,” Vickers said of Earnhardt.

NASCAR penalized Earnhardt for overaggressive driving, even though he later stated: “I got a run on him and (Vickers) saw me coming. I had a big old run on him and I went to the inside. I didn’t try to make no late move and make some kind of surprise or anything. I just kind of ease on over and he went to block me and hit me in the fender, sending us both off. It sent me down into the grass and I tried to recover my car. I got back into him coming back into the race track.”

Pressed further, Earnhardt added: “It was accidental. I didn’t want to wreck the field.”

Meanwhile, on Lap 146 of the race scheduled for 200 laps, Kenseth took the lead from Elliott Sadler. Aric Almirola was spun by Kasey Kahne shortly thereafter after Almirola made contact with Sam Hornish Jr. on the backstretch, bringing out another caution.

As the cars circled the track under yellow, rain began to fall — slowly, at first … and then more steadily.

NASCAR brought the cars to pit road and red-flagged the race. Sixteen minutes later, with the rain falling harder and Kenseth still in his car (many other drivers exited theirs as soon as the red-flag period began), NASCAR called the race and declared Kenseth the winner of his second Daytona 500.

Driving the No. 17 DeWalt-sponsored Ford for car owner Jack Roush, Kenseth was overcome with joy after winning the 500 on his 10th try.

“It’s going to be really wet out here because I’m crying like a baby,” said a jubilant Kenseth moments later.

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