After introductions, entertainment by Tim McGraw, a classy Anthem sung by Harry Connick Jr. and even some unique interviews by the FOX team, the race got underway, with Mark Martin and Dale Jr leading them to the green flag. NASCAR Legend, Richard Petty, actually did the leading, being honored by driving in the Pace Car. It was a great moment, given that Richard Petty Motorsports seems to be somewhat rejuvenated. In fact, three of his four drivers had managed to lead one or more laps by a quarter of the way through the race.
Surprisingly, the racing wasn't a freight train today, and with a lot of green flag laps, some really good cars ended up a lap down. The cars were not bunched up, rather there seemed to be a few packs of 10 or 12 cars. Although it is somewhat expected that Kevin Harvick will be up near the front, along with the Busch brothers, Kyle and Kurt, and others, the average fan wouldn't have expected to see AJ Allmendinger up front and leading, however, he did have a third place finish at Daytona, his highest in the series to date. In the second quarter of the race, "The Dinger" seemed to be the car to beat. That is, until the next set of pit stops. Unfortunately, his pit crew had a misstep with lug nuts and AJ fell back. Ryan Newman had problems as well, missing his pit completely and having to go all the way around the track and come back in.
Pit strategies had been a story for the day. Mark, Dale Jr and Juan Pablo Montoya had not pitted under the first caution, only a handful of laps into the race, but all had managed to stay out of trouble and were running up near the front when the crossed flags were displayed. Front runners at the halfway point also included Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Elliott Sadler and Martin Truex Jr. In fact, Clint Bowyer had moved out to lead the pack.
As is normal in the "Super Bowl", be it football or racing, there are commercials. The commercials catching this fan's attention were the Toyota and Coke commercials. After seeing and hearing the Coke commercial, with the drivers singing the "I'd like to buy the world a coke" song, all I can say is, don't quit your day jobs boys. I won't post the video of the making of commercial, which is equally hilarious, but if you want to see it, click here
The Toyota commercial, on the other hand, still has me giggling. We've seen the design your own Toyota car with Denny Hamlin - the Love car - a few times now, but the Kyle Busch commercial is hilarious.
At lap 122 the red flag was displayed so the track crews could repair a hole in the track in turn 2, said to measure about 8 inches by 6 inches. Repairs were completed quickly, but the compound used to make the repairs takes 15-20 minutes to cure. And just like cautions breed cautions, it seems track damage breeds the same. A second hole in the track was found and the red flag extended while it, too, was repaired. In the break, the television audience was treated to a series of "DW chats with the drivers". Kyle Busch was awakened from a power nap and commented that perhaps Lowe's or Home Depot had the stuff needed to repair the track. Dale Jr spent his break playing MLB trivia and commented that perhaps placing a cone over the hole for them to dodge would be the answer. Of course, he was kidding, but the drivers were doing whatever they could to pass the time.
Half an hour after the red flag had first been displayed, NASCAR allowed the drivers to get out of the cars. The FOX crew interviewed the NASCAR officials who promised the race would be completed tonight. Three different remedies were tried, with the third time being the charm. And an hour and 37 minutes after the red flag was displayed, the drivers were once again ordered back to their cars.
With 77 laps to go, the racing got back underway and Clint Bowyer carried on where he'd left off, battling with Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler. Bowyer's teammate Kevin Harvick was right there with him. With 65 to go, the RPM cars of Kahne and Sadler were doing battle with the RCR cars of Bowyer and Harvick. The jugging of positions was all taking place behind the leaders, but a bump from Harvick got Sadler loose and when he let off to recover, he went backwards fast, finally tucking in at the 16th position.
With 50 laps to go, AJ Allmendinger had gone for a slide, and up front it was still all about RCR and RPM, but Martin Truex Jr in his new Michael Waltrip Racing ride had moved into top spot.
Elliott Sadler had only taken on two right side tires in the last pit stop and could not control his car, it was so loose. He'd taken to waving out his window to try to tell everyone to get away from him as the way his car was handling he certainly looked like a wreck trying to happen. Everyone had stepped up their efforts to get to the front, however, and the slicing and dicing and beating and banging was worse than it had been all race. It didn't much matter thought, for only a handful of laps later, the yellow flew, again for the asphalt.
There were 39 laps to go at this point, and with Kevin Harvick leading as the yellow flew, he was one of the first interviewed. He said, however, with no hesitation that he wants to finish the race. He did not want to have the race end under yellow.
This time the red flag was a little shorter than the previous break and the compound used for repairs appeared to be more of a concrete type material. Several cars had reportedly hit the hole in the track in the previous run, including Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr and Denny Hamlin.
The story of the Daytona 500 is usually about the cautions, the wrecks and the big one. Today, however, it has been all about the track itself, damaged because of the heavy rains the area received while the rest of the eastern part of the country had been under snow. Unfortunately the water from the rain seeps into the asphalt and weakens it. The result was the holes observed on the track.
after another hour red flag break, the cars once again got ready to go back to racing. Tony Stewart moved from his line where he'd been for the red flag and headed straight to pit road for some major adjustments. Clint Bowyer had a huge chunk taken out of his splitter, but chose not to pit for repairs, reluctant to give up track position.The sun had set completely by the time the yellow came out again allowing some more warm up laps and the lights had been turned on.
After several yellow flag laps and pit stops, the pace car lights were turned off, with Scott Speed out in front. There were 33 laps to go when the green dropped and after a clean start, it was speed and Biffle up front, and Greg had Carl Edwards right behind him. Denny Hamlin jumped to the middle thinking he was going to force Kevin Harvick out of line, but Harvick held strong and Hamlin got pushed backwards
The race with 29 to go was looking more like the racing at Daytona we expect and this fan had no doubt 'the Big One" was about to occur, more than likely with Denny Hamlin in the middle of it.
Kasey Kahne made a huge save when he got loose, but he was far back in the pack and bounced off his teammate, Elliott Sadler. Scott Speed maintained the lead in the bottom lane, only sharing it from lap to lap with Greg Biffle in the outside lane.
With 16 to go, Scott Speed was still out front but Jimmie Johnson had a tire go down. He couldn't get to pit road and had to limp around. Clint Bowyer took over the lead and Scott got shuffled back. Almost as soon as Clint took over, he was radioing his crew to tell them that the hole in the track was back and it was huge. In fact, some of the patch material appeared to have lifted out of the patch, but most drivers, being aware of where it was on the track, were avoiding it.
Harvick was a man on a mission and was motoring to the front and with 11 to go, he was in 5th. He moved up one more position as Jimmie took his car to the garage, settling for a 34th finishing position. With 7 laps to go Ryan Newman and Travis Kvapl wrecked when Elliott Sadler's extremely loose car clipped Ryan's and turned him into the fence. Travis was able to make it back to pit road, but Ryan's car was completely destroyed.
The green flag was set to fly again with 3 to go, but some additional debris was spotted, and the yellow was displayed once again. Clint, Greg, Kevin and Martin Truex Jr were the front four as the green flag flew with 2 to go.
Harvick had said he could not run the bottom and although Bowyer jumped out to take the lead, Harvick wasn't able to follow him to the bottom of the track, and Bowyer jumped back up to pick up his teammate in the outside line. Biffle and the bottom line went to the front as the yellow flew again, this time for a flat tire on Bill Elliott's car. Joey Logano was also caught up in Elliott's wreck.
The Green White Checkers rule came into play, and as they made what was thought to be the last yellow laps of the day, the top ten included Jamie McMurray and David Ragan, along with the 56 of Martin Truex Jr. This meant three drivers not even named int the drivers to watch for 2010 were showing they are drivers to watch. Harvick was able to get to the bottom as he had said he must do, but in doing so some of the cars had to check up. Back in the pack, Jeff Gordon got into the back of Kasey Kahne, who turned and Robert Richardson Jr, down on the apron to avoid the wreck slammed into Kasey.
A second attempt at the Green White Checkers was up next, and the fans who had stuck it out all day long, through red flags, wrecks and cold weather, were getting exactly what they had paid their hard earned buck for - every possible attempt at a green flag finish.
Kevin wasn't able to hang on to the lead, but as the final two laps wound down, Jamie McMurray, who had propelled Harvick to the front during the previous GWC attempt, moved to the front, and hot on his tail was..... Dale Jr??
It was a feel great kind of finish, even as Jeff Gordon was wrecking on the final lap, because Jamie McMurray got his first Daytona 500 victory, in his first race with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and his return to the guidance of Chip Ganassi. Right behind him was the guy who people love to hate, Dale Jr. He'd come from 10th to 2nd in one lap, and as DW said, he "looked just like daddy".
It was a long day, over six hours long, with the red flags and the track problems no doubt frustrating fans and crews, but in the end, the finishes the fans want to see were there. It isn't the winner so much, but the way the winner was crowned. The race ended under a green flag when it looked for hours like that was never going to happen.
Much as many drivers have cried in Victory Lane, so did Jamie McMurray. There was no shame in that and I'm sure Chip had tears as well, he just wasn't on camera. In fact, the guys in the booth were joining this fan at home, and Jamie in Victory Lane, with tears of joy. Congratulations Jamie.