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Daytona 500 Traditional: McMurray digs NASCAR out of a gap

The 52nd running of the Daytona 500 was memorable for a pothole that caused two red flags, which meant it took over six hours to complete. But it should also be remembered for some great racing and a brilliant finish. It crowned a first-time winner in Jamie McMurray and left many of his rivals reflecting

Daytona 500 Traditional: McMurray digs NASCAR out of a gap

The 52nd working of the Daytona 500 was memorable for a pothole that brought about two pink flags, which meant it took over six hours to finish.

However it also needs to be remembered for some nice racing and an excellent end. It topped a first-time winner in Jamie McMurray and left a lot of his rivals reflecting on a race they felt they felt they might have received.

At 200 laps, the scheduled distance, Greg Biffle’s Roush Ford led the sector after rocketing previous longtime chief Clint Bowyer into Flip 3 two laps beforehand. Actually, he was a few hundred yards from being topped the victor – just for veteran Invoice Elliott (at 54-years outdated) to slip into younger gun Joey Logano (nonetheless simply 19!) and into the Flip 3 wall, which introduced out the yellows and froze the race order.

The pace car leads the field to a second race restart

The tempo automotive leads the sector to a second race restart

Photograph by: Eric Gilbert

It additionally meant a green-white-checkered end, NASCAR’s reply to extra time. When the inexperienced flew it was Kevin Harvick, the 2007 winner, who put one hand on regaining the trophy. Harvick believed he had the quickest automotive within the subject, however simply wanted clear air – and the underside racing line – to ram house his benefit.

From the skin of row two on the double-file restart, Harvick pushed Martin Truex Jr previous Biffle, after which decisively switched to the within, bullying Truex up the racetrack into Flip 1 and claiming the within line that he craved. But when Harvick thought he was going to win, he was improper.

Biffle obtained sideways at Flip 1, and brought about automobiles behind him to decelerate as he caught the slide. Within the chain response, Kasey Kahne clipped Tony Stewart and rebounded into the trail of Jeff Gordon, who was already mad with Kahne for deserting him within the draft earlier on. He barged into the rear of Kahne’s automotive a few instances earlier than correctly sending him spinning, and he was rapidly collected by Robert Richardson.

Robert Richardson Jr., Front Row Motorsports with Yates Racing Ford crashes on the superstretch

Robert Richardson Jr., Entrance Row Motorsports with Yates Racing Ford crashes on the superstretch

Photograph by: Eric Gilbert

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Below outdated NASCAR guidelines, the ensuing yellow flag would have signaled the tip of the race. However a brand new mandate to permit a number of makes an attempt at a inexperienced flag end (ie three green-white-checkers) meant the extra time would run and run. Like Biffle had been, new chief Harvick was now the sitting duck on the head of the queue.

The inexperienced flew once more at lap 206, with Harvick main and Carl Edwards pushing him on the within line right down to Flip 1. On the backstretch, the scene of so many bumpdraft maneuvers in Daytona’s restrictor-plate period, the essential transfer of the race occurred.

Biffle gave his outdated Roush-Ford team-mate McMurray (who had made a poor getaway on the restart after spinning his rear wheels) a large push on the skin line, as Harvick clung to his favored inside, permitting McMurray to sail into the lead into Flip 3.

Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet leads Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet leads Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Photograph by: Eric Gilbert

Because the white flag flew, McMurray led from Biffle and Truex, with a spot again to Bowyer and a charging Dale Earnhardt Jr. Junior had taken 4 recent tires throughout a warning with seven laps to go, and his Hendrick-run Chevy was the massive mover getting into the final lap.

Earnhardt and Bowyer labored collectively off Flip 2 and constructed up big momentum, Earnhardt surging as much as second place, and weaving between Truex and Biffle as he did so. Now there was just one automotive to go, and the chief was apprehensive: “I noticed the 88 behind me and thought, ‘oh no, it’s an Earnhardt – they all the time win round right here’.”

McMurray needn’t have apprehensive, as Junior did not catch him by 0.119secs within the closing yards.

Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet leads Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on the last lap

Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet leads Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on the final lap

Photograph by: Eric Gilbert

“It was all a blur,” stated Earnhardt. “I used to be simply goin’ the place they weren’t. If there was room to place match my entrance radiator, I put it in there and nailed the throttle. All of us wiggled, and one way or the other I obtained by way of. Not dangerous to complete second from 22nd on the first green-white-checkered – it’s superior and it sucks on the similar time.”

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Third positioned finisher Biffle added: “I used to be half a nook away from profitable the Daytona 500 [when the yellow came out]. Then, on the ultimate restart, I really feel I made my transfer too quickly. I had pushed Jamie by way of Turns 1 and a couple of and down the backstretch, pushed us each by the remainder, however then I attempted to go him on the frontstretch. I ought to’ve pushed him once more for whereas and waited till the backstretch to make a transfer, which is the place Dale Jr. obtained that massive run on me.”

Clint Bowyer, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing Ford lead the

Clint Bowyer, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing Ford lead the

Photograph by: Eric Gilbert

Bowyer completed fourth, and admitted he made a mistake selecting the improper lane on the ultimate lap that had in all probability value him second or a minimum of third. David Reutimann got here from nowhere within the closing phases to nab fifth, having lastly sorted his restarts when it mattered: “The restarts have been killing us, and I couldn’t do something proper when it got here to selecting the correct lane. Fortunately, I obtained the automotive the place it wanted to be when it counted and I had an amazing run right down to the end line.”

His Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota team-mate, Truex, completed sixth.

Harvick, who tumbled to seventh, was bitter about how he fell down the order, and fingered the driving force who he felt had robbed him of an opportunity to win: “We had the automotive to beat, and simply zigged after we shoulda zagged. The 99 [Edwards] doesn’t actually know the place he’s going. He went to the center and form of jammed all of it up. I simply want we had somebody behind us who knew methods to draft.”

Matt Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Matt Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Photograph by: Eric Gilbert

Matt Kenseth completed eighth, and the earlier 12 months’s winner struggled in opposition to a “baseball-sized” gap within the entrance of his automotive that in all probability answered the query of the place the pothole’s lacking asphalt had gone. Edwards completed ninth, forward of Juan Pablo Montoya, who had a fast automotive however picked the improper lane on the improper time and was by no means capable of work his means again to the entrance.

Whereas the racing was of the very best order in restrictor-plate phrases, the opening that appeared within the observe prompted a shabby outdated state of affairs. The difficulty got here proper out of the blue, and brought about the primary pink flag on lap 122, after John Andretti had clattered the wall in Flip 2 on account of a blow-out.

The primary try at a repair did not bond to the observe, so was ripped out and tried once more, which appeared to work after a delay of 1hr and 40mins. However after one other 35 laps of racing, the reds flew once more because the restore had not solely failed, however the gap had obtained even larger this time. The following answer? Consider it or not: physique filler. And this time it labored!

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The prolonged delays meant the race ended, fairly unintentionally, below the lights. This meant that the dealing with necessities of the automobiles have been vastly completely different than groups had deliberate for, as observe temperature dropped by over 30 levels (F) from the warmth of a sunny Floridian afternoon into a cold winter’s night. Some struggled massively, together with Saturday’s Nationwide Sequence [now Xfinity] race winner Tony Stewart, whose 15 race wins at Daytona nonetheless fail to incorporate a 500 success. He trailed house a pissed off 22nd.

Pit stop for Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Pit cease for Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

Photograph by: Eric Gilbert

4-time and reigning champion Jimmie Johnson didn’t make the end, because the rear axle of his Hendrick Chevy failed. He had struggled with tire put on all through and suffered a right-rear puncture simply earlier than the primary pink flag.

Johnson had run close to the entrance beforehand, and gave the impression to be sturdy on lengthy runs, however didn’t take the chance responsible his retirement on the pothole: “I don’t assume so,” he stated. “We’d been hitting it with the right-side tires, and it was one thing within the left-side that broke.”

In addition to Earnhardt’s sturdy late run, it wasn’t an amazing day for Rick Hendrick’s staff. Poleman Mark Martin was by no means a contender and got here house a disappointing 12th. Jeff Gordon wrecked on the final lap of the race and trundled throughout the road in 26th.

Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota fight hard on

Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota combat arduous on

Photograph by: Eric Gilbert

The mighty Joe Gibbs Toyota staff additionally disillusioned, with Kyle Busch 14th and Denny Hamlin 17th. The latter blamed Montoya’s staff for “mendacity to us” about what number of tires they’d take within the final spherical of pitstops, which jammed his automotive within the field behind the Colombian: “They stated he was going to do two, so we did two and he did 4, so I obtained caught in my pits and rejoined with two outdated tires. We obtained screwed, actually.”

One other frontrunner to bemoan pit technique was Kurt Busch, who led strongly within the first half of the race, however fell away badly because the observe situations cooled. The Penske Dodge star, who completed 23rd, stated: “We have been working third however pitted with six laps to go for 4 new tires. Then it was yellow after yellow, and also you simply can’t leapfrog the automobiles from that far again.” Nonetheless, that was higher than team-mates Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish, who each shunted early on and trailed house within the decrease reaches of the highest 30 of their battered automobiles.

One of many stars of the day was AJ Allmendinger, who began from the again after his engine blew in observe, however the former Champ Automotive star zoomed from final to first in 45 laps in his Richard Petty-run Ford. However a spin whereas battling with Jeff Gordon value him 10 laps within the storage to get his automotive going once more. One other former single-seater man to impress was ex-F1 racer Scott Velocity, who led for 9 laps on well-worn tires after his Crimson Bull Toyota squad opted to pit him out of sequence. He finally completed 19th.

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Victory lane: race winner Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet celebrates

Victory lane: race winner Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet celebrates

Photograph by: Motorsport.com / ASP Inc.

The person of the hour, undoubtedly, was McMurray. He had received at Daytona earlier than, within the July night time race for Jack Roush’s staff, however the emotion of profitable NASCAR’s largest race on his return to Ganassi Racing hit him in victory lane.

In between the tears, he stated: “That is really superior. 4 or 5 months in the past Chip and Felix Sabates [team co-owners] took an opportunity on me, and what a method to pay them again. I don’t know that I’ve ever cried like that earlier than, however that is so unreal, so unbelievable, that I can’t clarify it.”

What’s additionally troublesome to reconcile is McMurray’s knack at profitable with Ganassi in sudden circumstances. He received on his second-ever Cup begin with the staff as a rookie at Charlotte in 2002, and scooped the five hundred on his first begin after 4 years away at Roush.

Seems to be like he’s right here to remain this time.

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