THE STARTING GRID:
In a race in which he’d finished a close second the previous two years at a track where he’d narrowly lost the Daytona 500 in February and the Nationwide race to teammate #11-Denny Hamlin the day before, #18-Kyle Busch squeaked out his first Daytona victory in the Sprint Cup Series by running just inches ahead of #99-Carl Edwards in turn one when a huge wreck brought out the caution to end the green-white-checkered finish. Busch was one of the fastest cars all night, leading as early as lap 25, but his night nearly ended on lap 82 when a power steering problem caused his car to twitch violently coming into turn three, clipping #11-Denny Hamlin. Though he fell from the top 5 to 37th as he slowed on the apron, he somehow saved his car from spinning and immediately began climbing back up through the pack. With 4 laps to go, he was racing #24-Jeff Gordon side-by-side for the lead and was just ahead of him when the ninth caution fell, then outdueled #99-Carl Edwards in another side-by-side battle in the resulting abbreviated green-white-checkered finish. Busch led 31 laps en route to his sixth victory of the season.
1) #18-Kyle Busch THE WINNER!
2) #99-Carl Edwards Gradually climbed his way up from the 24th starting spot and led a lap during the fourth caution on lap 109 when he stayed out an extra lap before pitting, handing the lead back to #88-Earnhardt, Jr. He remained silently in the top 5 for the late stages of the race and, after spinning #24-J. Gordon out of 2nd on the restart for the green-white-checkered finish, waged a thrilling duel with #18-Ky. Busch by racing him hard on the outside where teammate #26-McMurray had won the previous year. Unfortunately, the eleventh and final caution ended the race on the final lap with #18-Ky. Busch just narrowly ahead of him between turns one and two. Led 1 lap.
3) #17-Matt Kenseth After saving his car from sliding into the turn two wall on lap 91, he fought to help teammate #99-Edwards make a bid for the victory in the green-white-checkered finish by trying to shove him by #18-Ky. Busch on the outside as the field raced down the backstretch. Coming into turn three, however, he unexpectedly cut down to follow #18-Ky. Busch, allowing #2-Ku. Busch to nose into the hole on the outside to form a two-by-two battle for the top four spots, his car scored ahead of #2-Ku. Busch.
4) #2-Kurt Busch Just as in February, he struggled in everything leading up to the main event only to find himself with the leaders when the checkered flag fell. This time, adversity came when he was the fastest car in the only practice session on Friday, then blew a right-front tire coming off turn two during a fuel run, destroying his primary car and forcing him to a brand-new backup car that could only qualify 36th. After running a very frustrating 25th-place race for much of the day, frequently losing spots he’d gain on the track whenever he pitted, he moved into the lead pack in the final 25 laps and became a factor. He was just inside the top 5 before the tenth caution with 4 to go and slid into fourth during the green-white-checkered finish when he moved behind #99-Edwards after #17-Kenseth moved down low. He grazed the outside wall coming out of the tri-oval on the final lap, but kept it straight and defended his position when the race abruptly ended.
5) #6-David Ragan Remained in or near the top 10 all night on the heels of another excellent qualifying run despite being shaken from the draft when he raced up high in a three-wide battle on lap 30. In the top 5 after the fourth caution on lap 109, he shoved #88-Earnhardt, Jr. into the lead past #11-Hamlin on lap 121. He lost several spots soon after under the fifth caution on lap 124 after a penalty for “noncompliant fueling” when his catch can man disengaged the can too early, forced him to pit a second time. Climbing back through the pack, he bumped a loose #20-Yeley coming off turn four on lap 139 and checked up just before the eighth caution unfolded behind them. On the final lap, he authored a fantastic save when, while running in the middle groove in the tri-oval, he was clipped in the left-rear by a diving #7-R. Gordon and broke loose, sliding up into #07-Bowyer, the field scattering three and four-wide around them but somehow not wrecking. As the big wreck happened behind he and #07-Bowyer, he was able to hang on to his top 5 and secure one of his best finishes of the season.
6) #7-Robby Gordon Turned in his best finish of the year in a car that did not have any sponsorship until Menards came on board on race day, running near the top 10 most of the night before running 10th on lap 130. He nearly caused the big wreck on the final lap when he dove down low in the tri-oval beneath #6-Ragan while racing for fifth, nearly wrecking #6-Ragan. He stayed down low after the contact, kept his car straight during the field’s scattering in the final big wreck and picked up a well-deserved top 10 when the race was called. Led 1 lap.
7) #9-Kasey Kahne Raced all the way up from 41st to 6th in the first 41 laps with teammate #19-E. Sadler not far behind. With 17 laps to go, he was challenging for the top 5 on the backstretch when #88-Earnhardt, Jr. bumped #18-Ky. Busch to his inside, one of the cars making contact with the left-front of his car enough to cave in the fender. He dropped back through the pack sporadically puffing smoke, but wasn’t black-flagged and remained on the track as the smoke subsided. Struggling to hang on to the high groove, he was nearly hit by #20-Yeley when his car walked up the track with 16 to go. Fortunately, he was able to pick his way through the final lap melee to secure a strong finish, his third straight at Daytona.
8) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. In a car hand-stencil-painted by his team, he raced his way into the lead on lap 20, passing #15-Menard on the backstretch just before the first caution came out on that same lap. When he pitted too close to the inside pit wall under that caution, forcing a 21-second stop, he lost the lead and restarted 14th. Aided by teammates #48-Johnson and #24-J. Gordon, however, he found his way back into the lead by lap 37. He nearly wrecked teammate #48-Johnson out of the lead on lap 77 when he bump-drafted #48-Johnson in the tri-oval. #6-Ragan shoved him to the lead on lap 121 and, seven laps later, passed #60-Said for the lead when #60-Said stayed out on old tires. His shunt of #18-Ky. Busch while on the backstretch with 17 to go crumpled the left-front fender of #9-Kahne. Still in the top 5 with 6 laps to go, however, he was knocked very loose coming into turn three and lost several spots, taking him out of the top five. Led a race-high 51 laps.
9) #07-Clint Bowyer Solid top-10 run became a tense affair in the closing laps when he and #5-Mears made contact on lap 139, #5-Mears wrecking soon after to bring out the eighth caution. He had an even closer call during the final green-white-checkered finish when #6-Ragan made contact with him coming out of the tri-oval on the final lap, his car brushing the outside wall, but staying straight as the field scattered around him. Still, he held on and finished in the top 10.
10) #8-Mark Martin Qualifying on the outside pole, his best starting spot at Daytona since 1990 and his best at a restrictor plate track since 1991, he joined teammate #15-Menard in an all-DEI front row. Earned an excellent finish as well on the heels of being tabbed by Hendrick Motorsports on Friday as driver of the #5 full-time in 2009.
11) #83-Brian Vickers Was the biggest mover through the pack on lap 30, having gained 23 spots from his 28th place starting position. Became involved in the fifth caution on lap 124 when he spun #31-J. Burton coming off turn four, the sixth on lap 130 when #26-McMurray merged into him coming into turn one and spun, and nearly in the eighth when a wobbling #5-Mears broke loose right in front of him off turn four nine laps later.
12) #29-Kevin Harvick Fought to lead a lap under the second caution of the race by staying out for an extra circuit, but it didn’t work. When the race was restarted with 8 laps to go following the ninth caution of the race, he got very loose in the high groove coming off turn four in front of #6-Ragan, but saved his car from spinning.
13) #43-Bobby Labonte NO NOTES
14) #10-Patrick Carpentier (R) The highest-finishing rookie for the second time this season and the first time since the Samsung 500 at Texas. Was clipped in the right side by the sliding #77-Hornish, Jr. while riding the apron during the eleventh caution of the race, but kept going and earned an excellent finish.
15) #15-Paul Menard Became the second straight first-time polesitter in his 57th Cup start and, in doing so, gave DEI its first Daytona pole. He led the opening laps of the race until #88-Earnhardt, Jr. took the lead from him on the backstretch just before the first caution of the race on lap 20. He suffered damage to the right-rear quarter-panel after a pit road collision with teammate #01-Smith around the second caution on lap 44 and required several strips of tape. Despite this, he was able to race back up to 7th on lap 139, but was then spun by #20-Yeley in the tenth caution as #20-Yeley was checking up for the spinning #44-Reutimann, who was himself turned after checking up for the wrecking #48-Johnson. On the apron, he barely avoided damage in the eleventh and final caution when he and #1-Truex, Jr. squeezed #45-T. Labonte into a near-spin. Led 19 laps.
16) #45-Terry Labonte After running a very quiet, very patient lead-lap race, he was nearly taken out in the tenth caution when he bumped the slowing #22-Blaney on the backstretch with 4 laps to go and narrowly avoided t-boning #48-Johnson as #48-Johnson spun off #22-Blaney’s nose. He narrowly avoided damage again in the eleventh and final caution when he got squeezed between #1-Truex, Jr. and #15-Menard, his car drifting some distance along the apron before driving off from the wreck.
17) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Weekend got off to a bad start when his primary car was confiscated after inspection when the car did not fit NASCAR’s templates, forcing him to miss practice and race in a backup that could only qualify 35th. Considering all the adversity, he ran a respectable race on Saturday, running up in 15th on lap 114, but had to romp on the brakes when #26-McMurray spun in front of him on lap 130 to narrowly avoid a t-boning incident. He did, however, bring out the seventh caution on lap 137 when, while running the lower groove off turn four, he hooked #11-Hamlin into #12-Newman. By lap 139, his car showed clear damage to the left-front of his bumper and his left-rear quarter-panel was bowed out as his rear bumper had been bumped too hard by another car. Suffered some more cosmetic damage in the eleventh and final caution when he squeezed #45-T. Labonte into #15-Menard while they escaped on the apron.
18) #78-Joe Nemechek Brought out the ninth caution of the race with 11 laps to go when, while racing #60-Said off turn four, he hooked a merging #60-Said into the outside wall, but managed to avoid further involvement. While following #1-Truex, Jr. on the apron, e was hit in the right side by the sliding #20-Yeley in the eleventh and final caution, but like #10-Carpentier avoided further damage and kept going, picking up one of his best finishes of the year.
19) #22-Dave Blaney After running up near the top 5 in the early stages, he slipped back around 15th as the night continued. Still running 15th with 4 laps to go, he sparked the tenth caution of the race when he was squeezed between the slowing cars of #28-Kvapil and #45-T. Labonte, causing him to pop out of the outside groove and clip #48-Johnson, sending #48-Johnson spinning into the outside wall. He narrowly missed damage in the eleventh and final caution when, while riding behind #28-Kvapil on the outside, he locked his brakes and was held up by the wrecks, following the cars downhill before coming out of the smoke undamaged.
20) #20-Tony Stewart & J.J. Yeley Stewart, severely ill with flu-like symptoms, nevertheless started the race and showed he had a strong car despite scraping the outside wall off turn three on lap 5. Frequently sweeping down low on the backstretch to gain more positions, he diced his way into 3rd on lap 39. Still running with the leaders under the third caution on lap 71, the flu got the best of him and he had his pit crew get relief driver J.J. Yeley, who did not qualify on Friday, ready to take over. The driver change was made under that caution and Yeley returned to the track on the lead lap around the 30th position. Yeley ran a respectable race in the laps immediately following, climbing up to 12th by the seventh caution on lap 136 and saving his car from spinning off turn four on the lap 139 restart even when #6-Ragan bumped him. His checking-up, however, ultimately brought out the eighth caution when #5-Mears wrecked a few cars behind. His car broke loose once again with 16 laps to go, nearly collecting #9-Kahne in the outside wall. Yeley was also involved in the tenth caution when, while running behind the spinning #01-Smith as he spun #44-Reutimann, he cut down across the nose of #15-Menard and spun with him through the grass before nearly hitting the wrecked #48-Johnson as he drove back onto the track. He was even involved in the eleventh and final caution when, while running the outside groove just behind the initial wreck, he crossed down across the hood of #41-Sorenson and spun into the right side of #78-Nemechek, who kept going.
21) #44-David Reutimann Lost five laps when he pitted under green on lap 97, perhaps to make post-qualifying adjustments, and proceeded to be the Luckiest Dog, receiving the Lucky Dog on cautions four, five, six, seven, and eight between laps 109 and 140 to get back on the lead lap. He was then involved in the tenth caution with 4 laps to go when he checked up for the wrecking #48-Johnson and was spun by #01-Smith, turning him left into #11-Hamlin, the two spinning through the grass.
22) #41-Reed Sorenson He bounced off #9-Kahne in turn one with 7 laps to go while hugging the outside groove for much of the late stages. He spun out of the outside groove in the eleventh and final caution just after #20-Yeley cut across his nose, his own spinning car knocking #70-Sauter into a spin down the banking.
23) #48-Jimmie Johnson In a car that was frighteningly loose on the track and frustratingly in the way on pit road, he still ran up with the leaders for much of the day as he drafted with teammates #24-J. Gordon and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. On lap 32, he dropped back quickly as he was trapped alone in the middle groove with no one high or low letting him in until he was practically out of the top 20. Under the third caution on lap 71 and the fourth on lap 109, he was a pit lane roadblock for #24-J. Gordon, forcing his teammate to slow down when he cut #24-J. Gordon off. On the lap 75 restart, he shoved his way into the lead and was nearly wrecked by teammate #88-Earnhardt, Jr. when he was bump-drafted in the tri-oval. He also nearly hit #29-Harvick coming off pit road under the fifth caution on lap 124. He creased his right-front fender racing under #18-Ky. Busch on the backstretch for 3rd on lap 133, but fortunately was able to make repairs when the seventh caution came out three laps later. Unfortunately, he was taken out in the tenth caution of the race when #22-Blaney was forced out of his groove on the outside and clipped him in the right-rear, turning him head-on into the backstretch wall, which he ground against facing backwards before slipping down the turn three banking near #11-Hamlin. Led 4 laps.
24) #01-Regan Smith (R) Having joined his DEI teammates in the top 8 after qualifying, his luck faded on race day when he ran into the back of teammate #15-Menard on pit road around the time of the second caution on lap 44, punching a hole in the left-front of his car’s bumper and crumpling up the right-rear quarter-panel of #15-Menard, both cars requiring tape. He became involved in the tenth caution with 4 laps to go when, while checking up for the wrecking #48-Johnson, he knocked #44-Reutimann into a spin, sending #44-Reutimann spinning through the grass with #11-Hamlin. His car wobbled after the contact and spun down the banking of turn three, but fortunately didn’t hit anything.
25) #00-Michael McDowell (R) NO NOTES
26) #11-Denny Hamlin After dominating the Nationwide race at Daytona the day before, he mimicked teammate #20-Stewart’s daring moves to the inside of the track on the backstretch, often riding the yellow line as he climbed up to 3rd on lap 80. He nearly wrecked teammate #18-Ky. Busch on lap 82 when #18-Ky. Busch had a power steering problem and crossed his nose, but managed to avoid disaster. Still in the top 5 after the fourth caution on lap 109, he took the lead on lap 115 and held it until #6-Ragan pushed #88-Earnhardt, Jr. past him six laps later. Things went downhill a few laps later when, while running near the lead draft coming off turn four on lap 136, he was clipped in the left-rear by #1-Truex, Jr. and spun into #12-Newman, sending them both spinning to the inside, the left-rear of his car tagging the wall. He came back onto the track only to be involved in the tenth caution of the race with 4 to go when #01-Smith turned #44-Reutimann into him, sending him into the grass, sliding back onto the track, and nearly colliding with #48-Johnson as the two slid in different directions over the turn three banking. Led 6 laps.
27) #55-Michael Waltrip Began to make his own move toward the front about the same time as #2-Ku. Busch in the final 20 laps which, unfortunately, was just in time for him to be taken out in the eleventh and final caution when #77-Hornish, Jr., forced down the track by #28-Kvapil, clipped him in the right-rear, sending him hurtling up the banking and into the two wrecked cars. Led 1 lap.
28) #70-Johnny Sauter Turned in his season-best qualifying run by starting 5th and remained in the top five for much of the first run before the first caution fell on lap 20. After running a relatively quiet race after that, he was involved in the eleventh and final caution on the final lap when he spun from the outside groove while racing under #41-Sorenson, who also spun to the inside after #20-Yeley cut across his nose. His car wound up sliding into #77-Hornish, Jr. and the others on the apron.
29) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) In a car heavily towed-out yet again, he looked like he was going to have another strong run at Daytona when he raced all the way up from 42nd to 10th in the first 63 laps. He avoided disaster bravely during the fourth caution of the race when #19-E. Sadler crashed into the turn four wall, not hitting the brakes or swerving even though he was running the high groove, but still missing #19-E. Sadler completely. He was also nearly involved in the eighth caution when he was behind the wobbling #5-Mears on lap 139, but slowed down to avoid contact that time. He was involved in the opening stages of the eleventh and final caution when #28-Kvapil slid down into him, forcing him to clip the right-rear of #55-Waltrip, who turned up and pinned all three into the outside wall. His car then slid down the banking and tagged the right side of #10-Carpentier, who managed to hold on and keep going as #70-Sauter’s car slid sideways into his.
30) #24-Jeff Gordon Had a very loose race car in the opening stages after starting mid-pack, nearly wrecking when he merged up in front of #83-Vickers coming off turn four on lap 5, then again when he was squeezed between #70-Sauter and #2-Ku. Busch in the same spot on lap 11. Linked with teammates #48-Johnson and #88-Earnhardt, Jr., however, his car became a fixture in the top 5 after the first round of pit stops. Still surrounded by his teammates, he made his way into the lead on lap 79, lost some spots, then regained the lead on lap 133. He fought hard with #18-Ky. Busch for the lead through much of the latter stages of the race, running side-by-side with him with 4 laps to go when the tenth caution came out. Unfortunately, he was narrowly behind #18-Ky. Busch at the moment of caution and was forced to restart 2nd for the green-white-checkered finish. It was on that fateful restart that he spun off the nose of #99-Edwards as they raced into turn one, but didn’t bring out the caution, dropping him far back in the pack. Led 46 laps.
31) #28-Travis Kvapil After running in the top 10 around the one-quarter mark of the race, he checked up while running 13th on the backstretch with 4 to go and, ultimately, sparked the tenth caution of the race when #22-Blaney, running behind him, was forced to pop out of line and clip #48-Johnson into a spin. Unfortunately, his strong run was ruined when he brought out the eleventh and final caution on the final lap, his car slipping down onto #77-Hornish, who slid back up into him with #55-Waltrip and pinned him hard into the outside wall, destroying his car.
32) #26-Jamie McMurray The defending champion of the race struggled with poor handling and terrible track position that mired him around 30th for much of the day. He brought out the second caution on lap 44 when he made contact with #12-Newman as the two raced for the same spot off turn two. He spun out trying to merge in front of #83-Vickers coming into turn one on lap 130, bringing out the fifth caution as he spun through the grass, but didn’t hit anything. Though the car was not damaged, he spent 6 laps behind the wall for repairs and received one of them back as the Lucky Dog under the ninth caution with 11 to go.
33) #21-Jon Wood Fell to the back before the green flag along with #84-Allmendinger and #60-Said as one of the quick cars out of the top 35 who needed to make several adjustments to get out of qualifying trim and into race setup. Just like at Talladega, however, his crew brought his car behind the wall just three laps in to make those adjustments, dropping him 8 laps down to the leaders before he returned to the track on lap 11. He did get one of his laps back as he received the Lucky Dog under the first caution of the race.
34) #5-Casey Mears Just when it looked like his mid-pack run was going to allow him to move towards the front in the late stages, he broke loose racing under #07-Bowyer off turn four on lap 139 while checking up for the slowing #20-Yeley and wobbled wildly before backing into the tri-oval fence to bring out the eighth caution of the race, ending his day.
35) #60-Boris Said Successfully made his first race at Daytona since he finished 14th in the 2007 Daytona 500 after his pole run was washed out that July and he missed the 500 this year by one transfer spot. Fell to the back before the green flag along with #21-Wood and #84-Allmendinger as one of the quick cars out of the top 35 who needed to make several adjustments to get out of qualifying trim and into race setup. Lost a lap in the first green flag run, but received the Lucky Dog under the second caution on lap 44. He took the lead by being the only car to stay out under the fifth caution on lap 124, but lost the lead almost immediately to #88-Earnhardt, Jr. on the lap 128 restart. He was taken out in the ninth caution of the race with just 11 to go when, while merging off turn four, he crossed the hood of #78-Nemechek and turned hard into the outside wall, ending his day. Led 2 laps.
36) #12-Ryan Newman The Daytona 500 champion of this season had a rough time of it in this event, starting back in 32nd and being spun out of 19th by #26-McMurray on the backstretch on lap 44 to bring out the second caution of the race. Though the only damage to his car was a low right-front tire and he recovered to run 5th on lap 108 and even challenge #11-Hamlin for the lead on lap 115, the right side of his car was pancaked during the fifth caution on lap 124 when the sliding #38-Gilliland pinned him into the turn four wall. As there was no damage to the front of his car, he returned to competition. His car was finished off, however, in the seventh caution on lap 136 when #1-Truex, Jr. hooked #11-Hamlin into him, sending his car spinning to the inside before hitting the inside wall hard with the right-front of his car.
37) #31-Jeff Burton Miraculously avoided damage during the fifth caution of the race when, while checking up for the wrecking #38-Gilliland and #12-Newman a few cars in front of him, he was rear-ended by #83-Vickers and spun through the tri-oval and into the grass. His crew removed the clumps of grass and he returned to the race. He was not as fortunate in the eighth caution on lap 139 when, while checking up for #5-Mears’ wreck, he was turned into the outside wall in the tri-oval by #2-Ku. Busch, crumpling the front of his car enough for his radiator to gush water. Picked up his first DNF of the season as well as his first finish outside the top 15.
38) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya Suffered damage in the third caution of the race on lap 44 when #16-Biffle came across the hood of his car and pinched him into the outside wall, scraping up the passenger side of his car and damaging his left-front, requiring some pieces of tape. The damage was apparently more severe than this as he lost several laps as the crew made repairs. After returning to the track, his car was seen limping around on the apron with 6 laps to go.
39) #19-Elliott Sadler After racing up near the top 10 in the first third of the race, he was taken out in the fourth caution of the race on lap 109 when his right-front tire blew while running on the inside groove in turn four, sending his car hard into the outside wall and nearly collecting #77-Hornish, Jr. Fortunately, he was okay and the crew got the car back onto the track several laps down.
40) #38-David Gilliland For the second time in three weeks, he turned in a career run, racing up to 5th on lap 89 and 2nd on lap 103 behind #88-Earnhardt, Jr., the two breaking away from the pack before the fourth caution came out on lap 109. Under that caution, however, he lost several spots when he overshot his pit box by a couple inches and had to back up, dropping him to 14th after a more than 20 second pit stop. Running back up in 7th on lap 124, he broke loose after running over some bumps in turn four and slid up into #12-Newman, turning himself into the wall in what became the fifth caution of the race. The damage to the front of his car was enough to put him behind the wall.
41) #09-Sterling Marlin After narrowly making the field in the 18th position, he fell back in the early stages, made an extra pit stop under the first caution, and lost a lap before receiving the Lucky Dog under the third caution on lap 71. After running laps down to the field for possible lengthy repairs, he fell out of the race with handling problems after completing 103 laps.
42) #84-A.J. Allmendinger Fell to the back before the green flag along with #21-Wood and #60-Said as one of the quick cars out of the top 35 who needed to make several adjustments to get out of qualifying trim and into race setup. Unfortunately, he never got to that point as he brought out the first caution on lap 20 when his right-front tire blew coming off turn two, turning him hard into the outside wall just like #2-Ku. Busch had in practice. He returned to the track on lap 80, several laps down.
43) #16-Greg Biffle Brought out the third caution of the race on lap 71 when he came across the front of #42-Montoya coming off turn four and turned himself into the wall, annihilating the front of his car.
DID NOT QUALIFY: