Feb. 27, 2012; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth celebrates with his team after winning the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. The race is being run on Monday for the first time in the 54 year history of the race due to rain. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Outrageous to Say the Least: Matt Kenseth Wins the 54th Daytona 500 After Crazy Night

After Sunday’s postponement of the Daytona 500, many people were wondering when the 54th running of the Daytona 500 was going to begin.  NASCAR’s scheduled start of 12PM EST did not go as planned, and scheduled the race for 7PM EST.  After the 36 hour long wait, lets just say the fans who stuck around for the entire weekend got themselves a special treat.

After the 36-hour delay, the race begun shortly after the scheduled 7PM EST starting time.  The race did not get underway without some drama early on.

Jimmie Johnson, who was running in the top-10, got a bump from Elliott Sadler on the left side of hie #48 car and caused a chain-reaction style wreck that involved 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch, and David Ragan.

Ryan Newman would have problems early on in the race.  Around lap 13, Newman lost control of his car, and spun around the backstretch.  He didn’t damage his ride and was able to remain in the race.

After the Newman spin, things calmed down up til a very crticial point in the race occurred.

Feb 27, 2012; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series safety crews work to put out a fire from a jet drier that was hit by driver Juan Pablo Montoya (not pictured) under caution during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. The race is being run on Monday for the first time in the 54 year history of the race due to rain. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

During a caution on Lap 160, Juan Pablo Montoya was trying to get around the Jet-Dryers in order to catch up with the lead pack. While doing so, he lost control of his #42 Chevy, and shot up into the Jet-Dryer cleaning the high side of the track.  Montoya reported before the incident that he felt something was wrong with his car.  After Montoya crashed into the dryer that was carrying over 200 gallons of jet fuel, the jet-dryer then ignited a huge fire.   Track Officials, Safety Officials, and NASCAR officials were on the scene to put out the blaze.  NASCAR called for the red-flag of the race while the crews cleaned up the track.

Juan Pablo Montoya was able to escape from the car without any injuries, but the Jet-Dryer operator, Duane Barnes, was evaluated at a local hospital.  Fortunately for Mr. Barnes, he was released from the hospital without any injuries a short time after the incident.

Leading the race under the red-flag was Tommy Baldwin Racing driver Dave Blaney.  Rain showers were approaching the speedway after the red-flag,  and many thought that the race was going to be over right then and there.  Fans, analyists, and reporters alike all questioned the integrity of the race track, and the asphalt. Can we get the surface in raceable condition? Can the track hold up for the last 40 laps of the race? All those questions and more were asked.  Fortunately, NASCAR answered by announcing that the track would be able to hold up and the race would continue.

During the red flag, Brad Kesoloweski apparently had his phone with him inside the race car, and took pictures of the red-flag festivities and posted them to Twitter.  In less than two hours, Brad Kesoloweski gained over 55,000 twitter followers.

Once the red-flag was lifted, Dave Blaney would go into pit-road for fuel, giving Matt Kenseth the lead less than 40 laps to go.

Once racing got back underway shortly after Midnight EST, everything was moving right along smoothly.  That is, until Lap 188. Jamie McMurray caused a multi-car wreck on the frontstretch that collected Brad Kesoloweski, Kasey Kahne, Aric Almirola, and Tony Stewart.  Stewart only got minor damage and was able to continue.  Everyone else involved was done for the night.

With four laps to go left in the race, Joey Logano made contact with Rick Stenthouse Jr , thus causing another multi-car pileup coming into Turn 1.  Tony Stewart was once again involved, along with Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, and several others. This ultimately brought us the green-white-checkered finish.

On the restart, Greg Biffle received a huge push by Dale Earnhardt Jr on the start, but Matt Kenseth went high to catch the draft by both Biffle and Junior.   After that, it was all Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.  Coming to the finish line, Biffle was getting a huge push from the #88, but ultimately chose to remain behind his teammate, and bring him to the checkered flag for his 2nd Daytona 500 victory.

Feb 27, 2012; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth (17) beats Dale Earnhardt Jr. (88) and Greg Biffle (16) to the finish line to win the 2012 Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

Dale Earnhardt Jr went high coming to the line and beat Biffle to the line to finish in the runner-up position.  Biffle would take third.

After the race, Kenseth was greatful for teammate Greg Biffle, stating “I have to thank Greg. We worked together really good all day long. He had a really fast car all day as well.”

“I could get a pretty good start on the bottom and either Denny or Dale Jr. could push me for a while and then they just couldn’t stay attached and I would get away from them just in time to get in front of Greg, and the two of us together could make some unbelievable speed.”

When asked about the incident that caused the huge blaze with the Jet-Dryer on Lap 160, Montoya stated that he was having transmission issues.  “Something failed in the rear of the car, and the car just spun into the jet dryer.”

Matt Kenseth is one of two active drivers with 2 or more Daytona 500 wins.  Jeff Gordon is the only other driver who has 2 or more wins.

In all my years of being a NASCAR fan, I have never seen a race more outrageous, and more plagued with uncertainty than what transpired last night. The Montoya/Jet Dryer explosion was the icing on the cake.  Thats something that will be remembered for a long time coming in NASCAR history. It will also be what describes the 2012 Daytona 500.   Just when you think you’ve seen it all in NASCAR, you might want to think again. Just like in any other sport, anything can happen, and surely will happen.

All in all, the race was outrageous to say the least, and Matt Kenseth took home his 2nd Daytona 500 of his career.

With that being said, ONWARD TO PHOENIX!

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