Daytona 500 Highlights: Ranking the Craziest Occurrences in Great American Race

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Safety workers try to extinguish a fire from a jet dryer after being hit by Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, under caution during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 27, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Daytona 500 has been in existence since 1959, but 2012's edition was certainly the wildest and most unpredictable of all time. Surprising things happen on the track on a weekly basis in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, but rarely are race weeks as crazy as this past one.

Thanks to a rain postponement, a myriad of wrecks and even a blazing fire, this year's Daytona 500 was a mess. After tons of delays, however, The Great American Race ultimately delivered and sent the race fans who decided to stay for an extra day home happy.

Here are some of the most shocking moments from the 2012 Daytona 500.



Juan Pablo Montoya Creates Blaze

In one of the wildest scenes you'll ever see on a race track, Juan Pablo Montoya caused a delay that lasted well over an hour when he crashed into a jet dryer. During a caution lap in which Montoya was attempting to catch up with the rear of the field, something malfunctioned with his car, causing him to slide up the track and smash into a jet dryer that was drying the track.

The crash caused diesel fuel to pour out of the dryer, and a massive blaze of fire ensued. Both Montoya and the driver of the jet dryer emerged from their vehicle unharmed, but it was certainly a scary moment. Personnel battled the fire and ultimately put it out, but a ton of maintenance was needed to make the track raceable. To NASCAR's credit, the track was cleaned up, allowing the race to run in its entirety as Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag.



First Rain Postponement in Race's History

Had the Daytona 500 run as it traditionally has the Sunday before President's Day, there would have been absolutely no weather issues to speak of. In order to prevent a bye week between Daytona and Phoenix, however, NASCAR decided to run the race a week later. This ultimately backfired as rain postponed the start of the race on Sunday and forced it to Monday instead.

Mother Nature certainly wasn't done wreaking havoc, though, as a noon start of Monday was postponed even further. The race finally started at 7 p.m. EST and ran without incident in the weather department. It did sprinkle briefly during the race, but it held off long enough, even with the lengthy delay for the on-track fire. It's quite surprising that a Daytona 500 had never been postponed before given its long history, but there's a first time for everything, especially in NASCAR.



Jimmie Johnson Crashes on Second Lap

As a former Daytona 500 winner and five-time Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson is always among the favorites to win the season's opening race. Johnson turned in the worst overall performance of his career last season when he finished sixth in the standings.

For any other driver that would be considered a huge success, but Johnson is in another stratosphere in terms of expectations. Johnson had been looking to bounce back quickly from his disappointing campaign, but that didn't happen on Monday.

On only the second lap of a race that took forever to get started, Elliott Sadler got into the back of Johnson's iconic No. 48 Chevrolet, forcing Johnson to hit the wall hard and collect several other cars as well, including Danica Patrick. There is obviously a very long way to go in NASCAR's season, but few expected Johnson to have such a quick exit and to be only 37th in the points standings following the race.