This race marked Harvick’s first last-place finish in any of NASCAR’s top three divisions since the 2001 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, when his brakes failed on the #29 GM Goodwrench Service / America Online Chevrolet after 19 laps. Harvick has yet to finish last in 989 combined Sprint Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series points races. Two of his five next-to-last-place finishes in Cup points races came in the Daytona 500: an engine failure in 2011 and a crash in 2013.
Starting last in the 25-car field, set by random draw, was defending Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano in the #22 Shell / Pennzoil Ford. By the end of Lap 1, Kurt Busch fell to the spot in the #41 Monster Energy / HAAS Automation Chevrolet followed by Denny Hamlin on Lap 2 in the #11 FedEx Toyota. Hamlin held the spot until Lap 8 when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. joined Hamlin in the #17 Fastenal Ford. On Lap 13, Stenhouse, Jr. cut a right-rear tire in Turn 1 and spun to the left, clipping Hamlin’s Toyota as he passed. Stenhouse, Jr.’s nose damage left him falling back on the Lap 18 restart and was 6.7 seconds behind the leader by Lap 22. The next time by, trouble broke out in Turn 1.
Running 5th at the time was Brian Vickers, announced Thursday as the SpeedWeeks replacement for Tony Stewart, injured early this month in an off-road accident. Vickers, making his first Cup start since Phoenix last March and his first Sprint Unlimited start since 2010, was involved in several close calls early on as he dodged his way through traffic. Heading into Turn 1 on Lap 23, Vickers’ #14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet cut a tire just like Stenhouse, Jr. and collided with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. down low. Vickers slid up the track and collected teammate Harvick, closing the track and collecting Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, and Clint Bowyer. No drivers were injured, but Harvick, Vickers, and Bowyer were done for the night as the first three retirees. It was Bowyer’s first start for HScott Motorsports, which now fields his #15 5-Hour Energy Chevrolet following the close of Michael Waltrip Racing.
Rounding out the Bottom Five were Jimmie Johnson, whose #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet suffered nose damage when he spun down the backstretch, and A.J. Allmendinger, whose #47 Kroger / Stouffer’s / Lean Cuisine Chevrolet was pinched into the outside wall by a spinning Kasey Kahne.
*This is the first last-place finish for the #4 in the Sprint Unlimited since 2011, when Kasey Kahne’s Red Bull Toyota lost the engine after 7 laps.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
25) #4-Kevin Harvick / 22 laps / crash
24) #14-Brian Vickers / 22 laps / crash
23) #15-Clint Bowyer / 23 laps / crash
22) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 43 laps / crash / led 1 lap
21) #47-A.J. Allmendinger / 56 laps / crash