Daytona 500 2012: 15 Memorable Moments from the 2012 Great American Race

David DeNennoContributor IIIFebruary 28, 2012

Daytona 500 2012: 15 Memorable Moments from the 2012 Great American Race

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    The 54th running of the Daytona 500 will not soon be forgotten by fans, participants and organizers. What began in smooth fashion with the conclusions of the Budweiser Shootout and the Gatorade Duels one week prior, fell into a virtual cacophony that started on Feb. 26 and ended early in the morning of Feb. 28.

    The entire race weekend was almost akin to an opera. Soaring highs were screeched to a halt by depressing lows. Everyone felt the grueling wait as time slipped by but, in the end, a happy ending was reached with Matt Kenseth emerging as the proverbial fat lady who sang.

    Here are 15 moments—not including Matt Kenseth singing while adorned with a viking hat—in chronological order that are sure to remembered long after the 2012 season reaches its conclusion.

The Rain

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    Never before had the Daytona 500 been cancelled. It was unthinkable that, after 53 Sunday editions, NASCAR would be forced to close up shop and proceed on a Monday.

    But, it happened. Debates will probably ensue for years as to whether this was a good or bad occurrence for NASCAR. At this point, the jury is out.

Lap 2

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    The race finally started after about a 30-hour delay, but it went under caution by the second lap. Tragically, rookie Danica Patrick in the No. 10 and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 were part of the carnage.

    It was disappointing. One of the biggest draws of this race was to see how Patrick would pan out in her first Daytona 500. She was not even given the chance. Johnson was also not given the chance to rectify his recent poor performances at Daytona.

    The wreck was neither of these two popular drivers' fault. Elliot Sadler (No. 33) was the culprit.

    For anyone who is not aware, Sadler is like the pitching prospect for your favorite baseball team that dominates in Triple-A, but can't get anyone out in MLB. He gets sent down again to the minors, lights up Triple-A again and is called back to the big league club. Then, he can't throw strikes and becomes a walk machine.

    That's a basic baseball analogy of Sadler's NASCAR career.

Danica Patrick in the Garage

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    Wow! No driver in NASCAR history has ever gotten as much television time while in the garage after a wreck as did Danica Patrick in 2012.

    It is understandable, on the part of FOX, to do so because of her popularity. Still, it was almost unbelievable how much they felt the need to update the audience on her situation.

    You do not have to be a devoted fan to know that, after wrecking, a driver will most likely emerge several laps down.

Jeff Gordon Blows Up and Gestures

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    For whatever technical reason, Jeff Gordon's car basically exploded on him in Lap 81. This was a bit surprising, though it can happen to anyone on any day at a race like this.

    The memorable moment came just before we saw his car become engulfed in smoke.

    As the mark of a true professional, Gordon waved his hand out of the window to signal to other drivers that he should not be followed because he knew what was happening to his car. The biggest beneficiary of this small act was his old Hendrick Motorsports teammate and drafting partner, Mark Martin.

    Martin, aided by Gordon's hand signal, was able to pull away and not slam into the No. 24 when it eventually lost speed.

    It could have ended Martin's night. Instead, one small hand gesture allowed Martin to finish 10th.

    Classy.

Terry Labonte Gets Spun Out

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    Terry Labonte, a two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, was spun out around Lap 90. Normally, this would have been somewhat forgettable, but it is memorable within the context of the next slide...

The Midway Payday

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    Terry Labonte's mishap led to the fifth caution of the night. It wasn't just any run-of-the-mill yellow flag...it set up a 10-lap sprint to profit $200,000.

    More commonly known as the Midway Payday, this NASCAR feature returned in 2012 and was made more thrilling by a caution that set up almost a race within a race to see who would emerge wealthier just for leading the 100th lap of the Daytona 500.

    Martin Truex Jr., with the help of Denny Hamlin, grabbed the cash. He should probably split that with Hamlin, who pushed him to the front past the field.

Clint Bowyer Becomes the First Electronic Fuel Injection Victim

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    It did not make for great television, but Lap 127 put Clint Bowyer in the NASCAR history books in ignominious fashion.

    Unable to to hit pit row on Lap 127, Bowyer was forced to make another turn around the track. This proved calamitous, as Bowyer's gas tank had no substance left to propel him there.

    It did not seem a big deal at the time, but this issue will almost certainly rear its head again as the season progresses.

    On a positive note for Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing, they now have some information garnered from race conditions that could prove useful in avoiding this situation in the future.

Juan Pablo Montoya's Encounter with a Jet Dryer

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    The "Big One" happened at Daytona in 2012, as expected. Ironically, it only involved one race car and an unsuspecting jet dryer truck under caution.

    This was most definitely the moment of the 2012 Daytona 500.

    In 20 years, many will forget who won in 2012, but they will remember that it was Juan Pablo Montoya who lost his car in Lap 160 and inadvertently caused a two-hour delay after slamming into a truck loaded with 100 gallons of jet fuel.

Brad Keselowski Posts the First in-Race Tweet Ever

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    Drivers had some down time after Juan Pablo Montoya's freak accident.

    Ever the opportunist, Brad Keselowski became the first driver in NASCAR history to post a tweet while an official race was in the course of being run.

    The obvious question is, why did he have his phone in the race car?

Drivers Communicate with Each Other

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    NASCAR inculcated a new rule for 2012 wherein drivers were no longer permitted to communicate with each other over the radio.

    The idea was to limit the ability of the drivers to communicate with each other while carrying out the boring act of tandem drafting for 500 miles.

    Still, once it became clear that the red flag was going to stay out for an egregiously extended period of time, the drivers began to mingle and communicate more than they ever would have had they just stayed in their cars and raced with radio communications able to go driver-to-driver.

    Extreme circumstances usually illicit extreme ironies.

Tide Gets Some Free Advertising

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    The photo here depicts the final stages of clearing Montoya's jet-fueled wreck. What was the final applicant, besides water? Tide.

    Tide?

    Who knew that a simple laundry detergent was fit to clean the surface of one the most prestigious motorsports races in human history?

The Red Flag Goes to Yellow, Fans Are There

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    After two hours of treatment, the Daytona International Speedway track was ready to race. As a hats-off to NASCAR fans, the house was still packed at close to midnight on a Monday night.

    That is devotion.

    Usually, races relegated to Monday due to inclement weather are as sparse in attendance as are cats at a pit bull convention.

Thirteen Laps to Go

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    This big wreck was just brewing. During a night of big wrecks, it felt almost inevitable.

    Jamie McMurray's No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet was among the more prominent victims.

    More commercials. More waiting.

Four Laps to Go and It Goes to Green, White, Checkered

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    Of course this would happen! Tony Stewart, in the No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet, started a wreck that sent a ridiculously long weekend into overtime.

    No matter: No rain was near Daytona International Speedway at this time.

    We would have a winner!

FINALLY, It Ends

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    After all of the toil, Matt Kenseth and his No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion finally ended the saga on Tuesday morning, Feb. 28.

    As stated, many will not remember Kenseth's victory as much as they will Montoya's delay.

    On to Phoenix. Thank goodness no rain is predicted in the Southwestern desert!