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History was made at the running of the Daytona 500 on Monday at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway after rain delayed the start for a day for the first time in the event’s 54-year history. A Monday night prime-time running of the race set up a dramatic stage for the sport. Unfortunately for Jimmie Johnson, his appearance was short-lived when the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports was involved in an accident on lap two and was credited with a 42nd-place finish.
Johnson, who started eighth after finishing third in his Gatorade Duel qualifying race Thursday, and the field were just getting up to speed when the contact occurred. The No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet was nudged from the back by the No. 33 of Elliott Sadler. The contact sent Johnson spinning coming out of the tri-oval just as the field was completing lap two. The accident involved five other cars, including the No. 10 of Danica Patrick.
“We were all just trying to make our lane work. A lot of energy in the lane,” said Johnson, who has one win at DIS, the 2006 Daytona 500. “I was kind of pushing the No. 78 (Regan Smith) a little bit. I could feel some help from behind. Just turned me around. Sent me down to the inside lane and back up to the outside lane. When I was sitting in the middle of the racetrack, I knew at some point someone was going to come along, unfortunately. David Ragan had nowhere to go. I, unfortunately, got drilled by him pretty hard.
"I'm just really, really bummed to start the season this way. For all the hard work that has gone into getting this Lowe's Chevrolet ready for tonight; we didn't get to complete two-and-a-half miles of green-flag racing. So I’m pretty bummed."
There were 10 caution periods for 42 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish the 202-lap race, which was extended two laps by a green-white-checkered finish. The red flag was displayed for a bizarre incident on lap 160 when the No. 42 of Juan Pablo Montoya exited pit road, lost control of his car on the backstretch and hit one of the jet dryers in Turn 3. The jet dryer erupted into flames, and the fire quickly spread down the track toward the grass. It took several minutes for safety workers to extinguish the fire, and then there was a lengthy clean-up and track repair process. The red flag was displayed for two hours, five minutes and 29 seconds.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., started fifth and finished second. Kasey Kahne started 20th but was involved in a wreck with 13 laps to go, finishing 29th. Jeff Gordon started 16th and experienced a problem with his engine. He finished 40th.
Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 to score his 22nd career Sprint Cup victory and his second Daytona 500 win.
Earnhardt finished .210 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton rounded out the top-five. Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Mark Martin comprised the remainder of the top-10.
With round one of 36 complete, Earnhardt is the leading Hendrick Motorsports driver in the standings. He is second (-5) behind series leader Kenseth. Kahne is 32nd (-32) Gordon is 35th (-42), and Johnson stands 37th (-45).
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Subway Fresh Fit 500k on Sunday, March 4 at Phoenix International Raceway. The race starts at 3 p.m. EST, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 2:30 p.m.