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3-day Daytona makes racing history

2012-02-28 09:01

BURN-OUT BONUS FOR TIRED FANS Matt Kenseth celebrates (eventually) winning the 2012 Daytona 500 in Florida with a burnout on the track. The race, that should have started on Sunday, only finished early Tuesday morning. Image: AFP

Simon Evans

Daytona Beach, Florida - Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 race on Monday, holding off Dale Earnhardt Jnr on the final lap of a heavily delayed and incident-packed race.

Kenseth was helped by Ford team mate Greg Biffle, who helped slow down Earnhardt before crossing the line third in the Nascar season opener.

The victory was Kenseth's second in the race; the first was in 2009.


The race was postponed from Sunday to Monday because of rain and then for a further seven hours on Monday and finished at almost 1am Florida time.

A spectacular fire, when Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya hit a jet-dryer truck and sparked a large explosion and fuel blaze, resulted in a more than two-hour delay while the course was cleared for the final 40 laps.

Rain at Daytona International Speedway first forced Nascar to push the race to Monday afternoon, then to Monday night for the first-ever 500 in prime-time TV. Then a freak accident caused a huge fuel fire that stopped the race for two hours.

Juan Pablo Montoya's car sent him spinning under caution into a safety truck. The truck, which holds 500 litres of jet kerosene, burst into flames. Montoya's car slid into the grass, and he gingerly climbed from it as fire trucks rushed to the scene. The inferno raged on, and Nascar red-flagged the race with 40 laps remaining.


Jet fuel poured down the surface of Turn 3 after the accident, creating a fiery lasting image of Nascar’s biggest race of the year. The clean-up crews used boxes of Tide laundry detergent to clean up the fuel.

Montoya, who said his helmet was scorched in the fire and his foot ached, said he felt a vibration in his car before the accident. "I've hit a lot of things - but a jet dryer?" he said. "It just felt really strange, and as I was talking on the radio, the car just turned right."

The drivers were allowed to park their cars after about 10 minutes under the red flag. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had been complaining he had to go to the bathroom, and Brad Keselowski was posting to his Twitter account from inside his car.

The racing was aggressive at the drop of the green flag, and the first accident occurred on just the second lap, when Elliott Sadler ran into the back of Jimmie Johnson as they drifted around the track.


The contact sent Johnson into the wall and as the five-time Nascar champion slid back down across the track, he was hit hard in the door by David Ragan. The accident collected six cars total, including defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne and Danica Patrick.

It took about an hour for Patrick's Stewart-Haas Racing crew to get her back on the track, 62 laps behind the leader.


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