Sunday, February 14, 2010

Jamie McMurray Wins 2010 Daytona 500

Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

With almost two weeks of preparation occuring during Daytona Speedweeks, the prized 500 mile season opening race at Daytona International Speedway was set to under clear blue skies of a cool Florida Sunday afternoon. The 52nd running of the Daytona 500 was started by Grand Marshall Junior Johnson, 1960 Daytona 500 winner and multiple time championship car owner in the Cup series. Having won his 1960 Daytona 500 race in a Chevrolet, Junior Johnson command went to the Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolets of Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr leading the 43-car starting field.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR

Unlike the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series races that proceeded the most anticipated Sprint Cup season opener, the first 2 laps of the race went without a yellow flag. However, even the traditionally more experienced drivers of NASCAR's big league series couldn't go 10 laps around the 2.5 mile before casualties mounted. Working lap 8, Brad Keselowski #12 Penske Racing Dodge lost control of through turn 4 colliding with the outside wall and collecting Max Papis, Mike Bliss, Regan Smith, and Keselowski's Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. While these cars were able to complete more laps, the #13 Toyota of Max Papis would retire soon with engine failure and Mike Bliss fell out after a later single car crash.

While there were some multi-car accidents, the 2010 restrictor plate season opener did not involve any occurrences which could classify as 'the big one'. With a considerable amount of contenders remaining near the end of the 500 mile distance, at least 20 teams were able to post a charge for the lead including the #82 of Scott Speed, who gambled on staying out when the rest of the field made pit stops. In total, there was an amazing 52 lead changes between 21 drivers through the race with Harvick having led the most.

With the race starting under NASCAR's revised initiative to start races earlier in 2010, two red flags during the second half of the Daytona 500 actually led to the event finishing around the same time as the 2008 Daytona 500. Not because of wrecks, these red flags were both addressing a large hole that developed in the race surface through turn 2. John Andretti, driving the #34 Ford, was claimed as a victim of his torn up racetrack ending his 2010 race. Along with Andretti, the hole also cut down a right front tire on four-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson's #48 Chevrolet. Johnson's damage was repairable as his car was tended by the Hendrick Motorsport team. The first red flag within the 4th caution took 1 hour and 40 minutes as the crews of Daytona International Speedway worked hard to refurbish the area of race track. Regrettably, the racing action of the large NASCAR Sprint Cup field wore heavily on the asphalt patch as the surface began to break away after just 30 laps. A second red flag period to fill the hole with an epoxy patch saw the field remain still for an additional 40 minutes. Fortunately, this latest fix held through the duration of the 500 mile event.

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

With last year's Daytona 500 ending short of the full distance due to rainfall, many fans were frustrated with the speed which NASCAR called the race. Declaring the lead car Matt Kenseth the winner less than 30 minutes into the race stoppage, the rain showers actually began to let up. Mentioning the 2009 race, the 2010 edition of the Daytona 500 featured a much improved commitment to NASCAR fans by the stock car sanctioning body. In fact, NASCAR announced earlier this week another rule change to the green-white checkered procedure which expanded restart attempts from 1 to 3 tries per race. As the end of the 2010 Daytona 500 approached, this rule received its first trial run.

As the race neared its completed distance, caution #7 occurred on lap 194 when Occasional Elliott Sadler, who led 9 laps in the race, slid out of turn 2 downwards towards the #39 Chevrolet of Ryan Newman. The #37 Ford of Travis Kvapil was also collected the late accident but continued running. Restarting just before the 2 laps to go mark, the field was brought back under yellow when the #20 Toyota of Joey Logano, the #21 Wood Brothers Ford of Bill Elliott, and the #26 driven by Boris Said were wrecked in turn 3. This caution bred the first green-white-checker finishing attempt with Greg Biffle, who just skated by the #33 of Clint Bowyer just prior to the caution flag flying.

As the heap of Sprint Cup cars exited turn 2, Robert Richardson in the #38 as well as Kasey Kahne's #9 Ford were the casaulties in a caution that also involved Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. Yet to take the white flag, the #29 Chevrolet belonging to Kevin Harvick took the lead with the #1 Chevrolet of Jamie McMurray sneaking by Biffle for the front row position on the 2nd green-white checker attempt.

On what proved to be the final restart, Greg Biffle's Ford pushed the #1 of McMurray around Harvick as the #29 Chevrolet found few drivers willing to draft with the Richard Childress Racing car. As the #1 car stormed to a small gap over the field on the backstretch, a hard-charging #88 Amp Chevrolet was making a powerful end of the race run. Starting a distant 10th on the restart, Dale Earnhardt Jr began to shove Clint Bowyer's #33 car up front gaining several positions through the tight draft. Through the final lap with the top-3 consisting of McMurray, Biffle and the underrated #56 of Martin Truex, Earnhardt was running 5th through the backstretch before he threaded his #88 car between Greg Biffle and Bowyer. With only Jamie McMurray left in front of him, the #1 Chevrolet was just too strong for the Hendrick-owned #88 car. As McMurray headed on to the checkered flag, the agression deeper in the field led to one last crash as Gordon was tapped by Denny Hamlin's #11 Toyota sending the two-time Daytona 500 winner into the turn 3 wall. With nowhere to go, the #7 of Robby Gordon would also received considerable damage.

With drivers in the final incident uninjured, Jamie McMurray was able to celebrate a very popular victory in his Earnhardt/Ganassi Racing Chevrolet on the frontstretch before motoring to Daytona's winner circle. Caught up in the win as well as the fact that too many people had him written off after being forced out of Roush/Fenway Racing, Jamie McMurray could barely hold his composure from the shear thrill of standing in victory lane.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR

This victory, worth over 1.5 million of a $10,549,893 purse, came in Jamie McMurray's first NASCAR Sprint Cup race driving a Chevrolet. Behind 2nd place Dale Earnhardt Jr, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, and David Reutimann rounded out the top 5 in that order.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 February 14th, 2010 Finishing Order
1) 1 Jamie McMurray         Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet
2) 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy / National Guard Chevrolet
3) 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford
4) 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios / Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
5) 00 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota
6) 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
7) 29 Kevin Harvick Shell / Pennzoil Chevrolet
8) 17 Matt Kenseth Crown Royal Ford
9) 99 Carl Edwards Aflac Ford
10) 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
11) 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
12) 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet
13) 98 Paul Menard Peak / Menards Ford
14) 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota
15) 83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota
16) 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
17) 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota
18) 51 Michael Waltrip NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
19) 82 Scott Speed Red Bull Toyota
20) 20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
21) 71 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet
22) 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet
23) 2 Kurt Busch Miller Lite Dodge
24) 19 Elliott Sadler Stanley Ford
25) 26 Boris Said Window World Cares Ford
26) 24 Jeff Gordon Dupont Chevrolet
27) 21 Bill Elliott Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford
28) 7 Robby Gordon Monster Energy Toyota
29) 37 Travis Kvapil Extenze Ford
30) 9 Kasey Kahne Budweiser Ford
31) 38 Robert Richardson Mahindra USA Tractors Ford
32) 43 A J Allmendinger Best Buy Ford
33) 55 Michael McDowell PRISM Motorsports Toyota
34) 39 Ryan Newman US Army Chevrolet
35) 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet
36) 12 Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge
37) 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Mobil 1 Dodge
38) 34 John Andretti Window World Cares Ford
39) 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
40) 13 Max Papis GEICO Toyota
41) 47 Marcos Ambrose Kroger Floral Toyota
42) 36 Mike Bliss Wave Energy Drink Chevrolet
43) 87 Joe Nemechek NEMCO Motorsports Toyota

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