Daytona 500 Results: Recap, Final Leaderboard and Analysis

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IFebruary 28, 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Best Buy Ford, poses with the Harley J. Earl Trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 27, 2012 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Matt Kenseth won a thrilling, and very long, Daytona 500. This was a race scheduled to end on Sunday afternoon and ended up concluding on Tuesday morning. 

Rain on Sunday forced NASCAR to postpone the race until the next day for the first time in the history of the Great American Race. 

It was rescheduled for noon on Monday, but more rain pushed that back to a prime-time 7 p.m. ET start. 

And finally, under the lights, Mother Nature allowed the race to start. That was not the last delay, though. 

Juan Pablo Montoya lost control of his car while the race was under caution and slid into one of the trucks using a jet engine to dry the track. There was an instant explosion, and soon, the leaking jet fuel was burning the surface of the track. 

Luckily, no one was hurt in this surreal scene, but the race was delayed for over two hours. 


Race Recap

Matt Kenseth took home the checkered in a race that finished with a green-white-checkered.

It was clear on the last restart of the race that this would come down between Kenseth, teammate Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

Kenseth and Biffle started first and second on the restart. Kenseth got off to the faster start and slid over in front of Biffle to protect his teammate. Earnhardt locked onto Biffle's bumper as the three pulled away from the rest of the pack. 

Dale tried his hardest to push Biffle up to Kenseth, but Biffle either didn't have the car or was simply trying to protect his teammate. 

Jr. made a run and overtook Biffle on the final turn, but there was not enough time for him to catch Kenseth. 

The result was not surprising. Kenseth and Biffle dominated all day in the Fords. They combined to lead 94 of the 202 laps.

The biggest shock from the finish was that they only needed one green-white-checkered to finish this race. It seemed like every time drivers became intent on pushing it that wrecks ensued.

And it only took the race until lap No. 2 to find its first wreck and caution.


Top Finishers

Place Driver        Car
 1 Matt Kenseth Ford
 2 Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  Chevy
 3 Greg Biffle Ford 
 4 Denny Hamlin Toyota 
 5 Jeff Burton Chevy
 6 Paul Menard  Chevy 
 7  Kevin Harvick Chevy 
 8  Carl Edwards  Ford
 9  Joey Logano   Toyota
 10   Mark Martin Toyota 


The Takeaway 

The biggest takeaway from this race was that it was a blast. After the long delays, the payoffs made it all worth it. 

It was fantastic to see the return of pack racing. It brought back the strategy and excitement of the race. 

The only disappointment was Biffle's inability or unwillingness to push Kenseth on the final restart. It looked like he was content to help his teammate out. 

To hear Biffle tell it, they simply didn't have the car to do it. Biffle, as quoted by David Caraviello of

Then we could have moved up beside him coming off the corner, and then Junior and I would have had to dice it out to the line. That's probably what I should have done, is just anchored down the brakes down the backstretch and put distance in between us.

[That's] the only way we probably would have got a run at him. But I thought for sure I didn't need to do that. Of course, Monday morning quarterback, I'd do it now, but I didn't think I needed to. I thought [Earnhardt would] shove me right up to his back bumper. He had all night. I had no doubt it would happen then.

Jr. seemed to agree with this in his post-race comments in that same article. So we'll just chalk this up to a great race and a great finish with a win by the man with the strongest car on the track. 

It was a rough night for past champions like Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, as they were derailed by wrecks, but that kind of thing happens in a race as chaotic as this one was. They will bounce back and turn in fine seasons. 

It was also a rough night for Danica Patrick. Her car was mangled in lap No. 2. She returned, but was over 30 laps down. The wreck was not her fault, and she was able to get some valuable experience out of it. 

This was a fantastic, and bizarre, start to what promises to be an entertaining season.