DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Matt Kenseth sat through 36 hours of a rain delay before starting the Daytona 500 on Monday night. Then he sat through a two-hour delay for a fiery collision between Juan Pablo Montoya’s race car and a safety truck.
And when it was finally time to leave Daytona International Speedway after 3 a.m., there was another delay – fog in Charlotte, N.C.
Kenseth won the 500 by using more patience
than everyone else. He got his No. 17 Best Buy Ford out front following the red flag, and kept it there for the final 38 laps, crossing the finish line a shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday.
It was a fitting end to one of the most bizarre racing weekends in NASCAR history. But the bigger challenge will follow this Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway as NASCAR tries to maintain its momentum.
The race was supposed to start at 1 p.m. Sunday, but rain forced the Monday start. Persistent rain led to the 7 p.m. Monday – and the first prime time start in 500 history.
Nobody could have predicted what would happen next.
Five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson and new fan favorite Danica Patrick were swept up in a crash at the end of the first lap. Jeff Gordon’s engine blew up a few laps later.
Then came the fireball when Montoya’s car slid into the back of truck equipped with a Jet Dryer – and 200 gallons of kerosene.
Montoya and truck driver Duane Barnes escaped without injury, but it took two hours to put out the fire and clean up the mess.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was disappointed by the delays, but impressed by the final product – especially getting the track ready after the fire.
“It was an unfortunate incident, but NASCAR did a great job to finish the show, and they took their time, and they did it right. So I was kind of happy how that all turned out,” he said.