Well race fans, it is February once more, which means that another race season is amongst us, as teams prepare for the annual running of the Daytona 500.
The 2009 season has brought many changes to the Sprint Cup Series with the new rules prohibiting teams from testing in the off-season. Every year teams prepare for the biggest race of the season at Daytona by testing in January. Due to the economic situation that our country is facing, NASCAR decided that it was best to ban testing for teams so they could save money.
Speedweeks are even more valuable then ever for teams to get vital information about how the track changes and how cars handle in the high speed drafts.
Speedweeks started off with a thrilling finish in the Bud Shootout as Kevin Harvick edged out Jamie McMurray on a last lap pass to earn the victory.
On the following day, cars took to the track to see who would start from the top two positions in the 500.
Martin Truex Jr. and Mark Martin would prove to have the fastest two cars in qualifying to earn the right to start from the front row in the 51st annual Daytona 500.
Later in the week, drivers had one last shot to qualify for the 500 in the duel races as four lucky drivers would race their way into the field.
Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch proved to be too much for the competition by winning both of the two duel races.
The drivers who raced their way into the Daytona 500 field were Jeremy Mayfield, A. J. Allmendinger, Regan Smith, and Scott Riggs.
The field is finally set and it is time to pull those belts tight and let the engines roar for the start of the 2009 season at Daytona.
Martin Truex Jr. started from the pole position with Mark Martin, driving for Rick Hendrick, alongside in second. Martin is part of a dream team at Hendrick Motorsports that now includes Martin, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
As the green flag flew, Truex led the field down to lead the first lap but the lead soon changed hands as Martin led lap two and Kyle Busch took over the top spot to lead lap three.
It did not take long for the first caution flag of the race to come out, as Aric Almirola spun going into turn three on lap 7. Under the caution about half of the field came down pit road to change tires.
They were not allowed to take fuel under the caution since a competition yellow would wave over the field on lap 25 due to rain washing all the rubber off the track after the Nationwide Series race on Saturday.
Busch took the restart as the leader and led the race until the competition caution came out after lap 25. The leaders all took advantage by hitting pit road for fresh tires and fuel. Busch would hold onto the lead under the stops and led the field down for the restart on lap 31.
Busch would lead the race until lap 53 before being passed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. The lead would be short lived for Jr. as Tony Stewart passed him one lap later. Soon after. Stewart took the lead the third caution flag of the race waved over the field for Travis Kvapil cutting down a right front tire. The leaders hit pit road again with Stewart’s crew holding serve on the stops.
Shortly after the race restarted the lead would change hands once more as Jeff Gordon would take over the lead for the first time on lap 70. Gordon would continue to lead the race when another caution flag flew for a crash involving the 18-year-old rookie Joey Logano on lap 81. The leaders would come down pit road under the yellow with Busch regaining the lead once more.
Busch would lead the race for the entire green flag stretch before the next caution flag came out for David Stremme exploding a right rear tire entering pit road.
Before the caution flag came out, a number of drivers went a lap down due to making early green flag pit stops.
Those drivers included Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Speed, Sam Hornish, and Jeff Gordon. Luckily for Gordon, he was the first car one lap down and received the free pass, allowing him to get back on the lead lap.
Under the caution flag, the leaders took advantage by heading down pit road with Busch having the best stop once more and holding the lead.
Also under the round of pit stops, Earnhardt Jr. made his pit stop with his right front tire out of his pit box and was penalized one lap. This would set up for one wild restart with many cars a lap down due to making green flag stops.
Elliott Sadler and Reed Sorenson led the field down for the restart since they had made their green flag pit stop just before the caution flag waved over the field, which allowed them to service their cars and beat the leaders out of the pits before getting lapped.
Shortly after the race resumed, it was quickly halted once more for what we like to call “The Big One” on lap 124. It all began when Brian Vickers blocked Earnhardt Jr. from making a pass on him down the backstretch.
Vickers sent Jr. down below the yellow line and when Jr. steered back up the track he got into Vickers left rear and sent him spinning in front of the entire field.
Involved in the accident were favorites to win the 500 including Kyle Busch, who led 88 laps before getting taken out in the accident, Denny Hamlin, and Jamie McMurray.
Also involved in the incident was Robby Gordon, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Scott Speed, and Carl Edwards.
After an extensive clean up, the race was soon restarted with Sadler still at the head of the field. Sadler would continue to lead as the seventh caution flag flew for a crash involving Jeff Burton and Paul Menard on lap 137.
The next restart would prove to be the most crucial time in the race since there was word that rain was closing in on the Daytona area and since the race had passed the halfway point, it is an official race if it started to rain.
Just after the race restarted, Matt Kenseth finally made his move to the front by swinging out to pass Sadler for the lead in turn one.
This would prove to be the move of the race as the caution flag flew shortly after Kenseth made the pass for the lead on lap 145.
The caution flag was for another Almirola spin but this would allow Kenseth to earn his first Daytona 500 victory of his career.
The rain started to come down under the caution which put the race under a red flag situation to see if the rain would stop and they could dry the track. Soon after the red flag was displayed, the race was officially called and Matt Kenseth was declared the winner.
Kenseth only led a total of one green flag lap and with his rain shortened victory, Kenseth is among Michael Waltrip, Richard Petty, and Fred Lorenzen as the only four drivers to win a rain shortened Daytona 500.
The top 20 finishers were:
- Matt Kenseth
- Kevin Harvick
- A. J. Allmendinger
- Clint Bowyer
- Elliott Sadler
- David Ragan
- Michael Waltrip
- Tony Stewart
- Reed Sorenson
- Kurt Busch
- Martin Truex Jr.
- David Reutimann
- Jeff Gordon
- Juan Pablo Montoya
- Casey Mears
- Mark Martin
- Marcos Ambrose
- Carl Edwards
- John Andretti
- Greg Biffle