Daytona 500: Matt Kenseth wins after Juan Pablo Montoya crash delays NASCAR race completion

February 28, 2012

The Daytona 500, NASCAR’s marquee race, was delayed not once, but twice after rain and then a fiery crash involving Juan Pablo Montoya forced officials to stop drivers. As Cindy Boren reported:

With rain ending and the Daytona 500 moved to a Monday night prime-time spot for the first time in its history, it seemed as if nothing else unusual could happen.

Until, that is, Juan Pablo Montoya added the only element that had been missing: the surreal. He crashed into a truck carrying about 200 gallons of jet fuel and set off an enormous fire that delayed the race for over two hours and made a Twitter star of Brad Keselowski.

NASCAR, for decades, has used a jet engine to dry tracks and Daytona International Speedway had been soaked by two days of rain. A truck carries the engine, a giant blow dryer that reaches temperatures of about 1,100 degrees and can dry the track in a couple of hours.

Montoya, with drivers under caution, was trying to catch up to the pack on the 42nd lap and saw the crash coming.

“I didn’t think about the truck. I thought, I’m going to be hitting the jet and it’s not going to be fun,” he said. “Before I got there, I thought, ‘This thing is going to be on fire pretty bad’ — and it was. When you’re in the car, every time you hit like that it’s a big bang and you hit and they [his pit crew] were trying to ask me if I was okay, but I was getting out. I saw the flames and my helmet got a little burned and everything, but ... move on.”

The bizarre race was eventually won by Matt Kenseth, his second Daytona 500 title. As AP explained:

Well, NASCAR certainly knows how to make a prime-time impression.

Rain, fire and Tide laundry detergent all factored into a Daytona 500 that will go down as the most bizarre in NASCAR history.

And Brad Keselowski tweeted most of it live. From his race car. Then he provided another update minutes after crashing at 190 mph.

And oh, yeah, Matt Kenseth picked up his second Daytona 500 title.

“You would think after 65 years and running all the races that NASCAR has run ... that you’ve seen about everything,” NASCAR President Mike Helton said. “You do think about, ‘Oh, my gosh, if that can happen, what else can happen?’”

The first Daytona 500 to be postponed took more than 36 hours to complete after rain pushed it from its scheduled Sunday afternoon start to Monday at lunch, and ultimately turned it into the first ever NASCAR race run in prime-time television.

“We had a really fast car and have fast cars in the past, and I figured out a way to mess it up,” Kenseth said. “I am glad it all worked out.”

Danica Patrick also had a bizarre week at Daytona, crashing three times while also winning the pole for the Nationwide Series. She finished 38th at Daytona. As Matt Brooks reported:

Danica Patrick came to Daytona looking to make an impression in the opening race of her first season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

And leave an impression she did — on walls around the track, other race cars and her own No. 10 Chevrolet.

Over a four-day span, the former IndyCar Series driver experienced a season’s worth of peaks and valleys. From a scary crash during a qualifying race, to winning the pole for the Nationwide Series to a second-lap crash and a 38th place finish in Monday’s absurd Daytona 500 disaster, Patrick’s first weekend back in pack racing could not have been more eventful — or more disappointing.

In case you missed it, here’s a refresher on Patrick’s week.

Thursday: Aric Almirola bumps Patrick’s car during the Ga­tor­ade Duels qualifying race, sending her skidding across the infield. She slammed hard into an inside wall, lifting her car off its wheels, but somehow, she escaped uninjured.

“It felt pretty big,” Patrick said afterward. “I don’t know what it looked like, but it felt pretty big.”

Friday: Patrick wins pole position for Saturday’s Nationwide race, becoming the first woman to win a NASCAR pole since Shawna Robinson in 1994.

Saturday: JR Motorsports teammate Cole Whitt bumps Patrick, causing her to lose control, bump into the wall and spin onto the infield.

Monday: Elliott Sadler bumps Jimmie Johnson, turning him into the wall. Patrick is caught in the fray and spins into the infield where she narrowly avoids another collision by slipping between a pair of out of control cars on the grass. Patrick finishes 38th.

More from The Washington Post

Patrick finishes 38th in Daytona 500 debut, ending disappointing week

Matt Kenseth captures Daytona 500 after rain and fire delays

Juan Pablo Montoya crash sets off fire at Daytona

Patrick crashes in Nationwide Series race

Patrick crashes into wall during qualifying race

Patrick uses sexuality to build a brand

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