The 2012 Daytona 500 is one that will go down in history as being the longest and most bizarre races of all time. The race was post-poned on two occasions due to a downpour of rain. The race was originally scheduled to start at 1pm est. on Sunday, but was rescheduled for noon on Monday. When the rain continued to flood Daytona the following day, NASCAR was forced to post-pone the race again until 7pm est. Monday night. An estimated 140,000 fans showed up for the event and got their monies worth.
Matt Kenseth Excels in Daytona: Matt Kenseth started out the season with a bang, winning the second Gatorade Duel race and qualifying in fourth position for the Daytona 500. He led the race two times throughout the night for 50 laps total, but most importantly led the last lap to take his second win in the Great American Race. The 2012 season marks the 25th anniversary for Roush Fenway Racing and Kenseth’s win gave RFR their 300th career win.
Denny Hamlin is back: After a rough and rocky ending to the 2011 season, Denny Hamlin was ready to close the book and start the 2012 season with a fresh outlook. He began that outlook with a new championship winning crew chief, Darian Grubb. They started speedweeks off well, finishing in 5th position in the Bud Shootout. The FedEx Toyota qualified in the 37th position for the Daytona 500, but quickly made that up, going on to lead the race. Hamlin led for 57 laps, earning the 3M Lap Leader award of the race. He also won the USG Improving The Finish award for gaining 27 positions, the most gained during the race. Overall, the No. 11 team finished the race in fourth position.
Greg Biffle exceeds expectations: After a win-less 2011 season and a disappointing 16th place finish in the championship standings, Greg Biffle was at the top of the leader board at Daytona. He started out speedweeks finishing in sixth position in the Bud Shootout and qualifying on the outside pole for the Daytona 500, along-side his teammate Carl Edwards. He led the race on eight different occasions for a total of 44 laps. On the last lap, while running second, he was passed by Dale Earnhardt Jr to bring home a third place finish in the Great American Race.
Jimmie Johnson starts the season on a sour note: Jimmie Johnson’s Daytona experience was an overall unsuccessful week. On February 17th, the No. 48 car failed initial inspection, resulting in NASCAR confiscating the C-pillars on the car. In the Bud Shootout he was caught up in a late race multi-car incident, leaving him to finish in 14th position. After being involved in a crash on Lap 2 of the Daytona 500, Johnson came home with a 42nd place finish. Unfortunately, the disappointment continued after leaving Daytona.
NASCAR announced Wednesday that the No. 48 team was in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20-2.1E (if in the judgment of NASCAR officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance will not be permitted — unapproved car body modifications).
Crew chief Chad Knaus and car chief Ron Malec are suspended for the next six Sprint Cup Series championship events and have been placed on NASCAR probation until May 9th. Knaus was also fined $100,000. Johnson and car owner Jeff Gordon have been penalized with the loss of 25 driver and owner points, respectively. As a result of the penalty, Johnson is now 23 points in the negative after earning just two points with his 42nd place finish in the Daytona 500. The team will appeal the penalty, allowing Knaus and Malec to attend the race at Phoenix this weekend.
And, The Jet Dryer
With 40 laps remaining in the Daytona 500, the race took a very unexpected turn. While under caution, a suspension piece on Juan Pablo Montoya’s No. 42 car broke, causing the car’s brakes to lock up. This sent Montoya spinning and crashing violently into a jet dryer truck that was on the race track. Jet dryer trucks carry an estimated 200 gallons of jet fuel, which caused a fiery explosion immediately upon impact.
Thankfully both Montoya and the driver of the truck walked away from the incident without any major injuries. The fire from the incident took several long, frightening minutes to contain. NASCAR used Tide laundry detergent to clean the spilled fuel off of the track surface. Fans were then again forced to sit through a two hour red flag period waiting for the track to be cleaned. During the red flag, drivers were parked on the backstretch, providing the fans with a bird’s eye view of their favorite driver.
In finishing the Daytona 500 around one o’clock in the morning, NASCAR teams had their week cut short in preparation for the next race. Teams will head to Phoenix International Raceway this weekend and leave the madness of Daytona in their rear-view mirror.