Jimmie Johnson let the NASCAR world know that two years without a Sprint series title was more than he could take. The five-time Sprint series champ opened up 2013 in grand style by taking the checkered at the Daytona 500.
This was an entertaining and highly competitive race. Crashes took out some quality cars and drivers, like pre-race favorites Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart, while engine troubles took out others, like Kyle Busch.
However, there were still plenty of drivers around at the finish to leave us all impressed. So, check out the results, and then the day's four most impressive drivers:
Full Daytona 500 Results (via NASCAR.com)
1. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 - Chevrolet
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 - Chevrolet
3. Mark Martin, No. 55 - Toyota
4. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 - Ford
5. Ryan Newman, No. 39 - Chevrolet
6. Greg Biffle, No. 16 - Ford
7. Regan Smith, No. 51 - Chevrolet
8. Danica Patrick, No. 10 - Chevrolet
9. Michael McDowell, No. 98 - Ford
10. J.J. Yeley, No. 36 - Chevrolet
11. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 - Toyota
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 - Ford
13. Aric Almirola, No. 43 – Ford
14. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 - Toyota
15. Bobby Labonte, No. 47 - Toyota
16. David Reutimann, No. 83 - Toyota
17. Dave Blaney, No. 7 - Chevrolet
18. Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 - Ford
19. Joey Logano, No. 22 - Ford
20. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 - Chevrolet
21. Paul Menard, No. 27 - Chevrolet
22. Michael Waltrip, No. 26 - Toyota
23. Scott Speed, No. 95 - Ford
24. Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 - Toyota
25. Travis Kvapil, No. 93 - Toyota
26. Terry Labonte, No. 32 - Ford
27. Trevor Bayne, No. 21 - Ford
28. Kurt Busch, No. 78 - Chevrolet
29. Casey Mears, No. 13 - Ford
30. Jeff Burton, No. 31 - Chevrolet
31. Austin Dillon, No. 33 - Chevrolet
32. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 - Chevrolet
33. Carl Edwards, No. 99 - Ford
34. Kyle Busch, No. 18 - Toyota
35. David Ragan, No. 34 - Ford
36. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 - Chevrolet
37. Matt Kenseth, No. 20 - Toyota
38. David Gilliland, No. 38 - Ford
39. Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 - Chevrolet
40. Josh Wise, No. 35 - Ford
41. Tony Stewart, No. 14 - Chevrolet
42. Kevin Harvick, No. 29 - Chevrolet
43. Joe Nemechek, No. 87 - Toyota
Even five-time champions can leave us impressed.
Jimmie Johnson has struggled mightily at the Daytona 500 in recent history, but he put that all behind him on Sunday as he claimed his second career victory in the Daytona 500.
With 19 laps to go, Johnson used a restart to overtake defending series champ, Brad Keselowski, for the lead. Johnson would not let that lead go.
While the win in itself is impressive, so is the statement made by his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. Johnson typically gets stronger as a year progresses. This year, these guys are dialed in from Week 1. You better believe the rest of NASCAR noticed.
Danica Patrick went from third to eighth on the final lap, and did so after starting the race on the pole. Despite these setbacks, it was an impressive day for Patrick.
She spent Sunday right in the thick of the action, and the eighth-place finish sets a new standard for females in the Great American Race.
Patrick also enjoyed the honor of leading the race. While this isn't a shock, since she started on the pole, she did not lead until lap 90. NASCAR’s Twitter account pointed that out:
Patrick drove a patient and smart race. Her Stewart-Haas team also had her in a fast car, and she proved she is ready to be a factor all season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Always a bridesmaid and never a bride—this has become the story of Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the Daytona 500.
With his second-place finish on Sunday, Earnhardt has now come in second in three of the last four Great American Races.
So, on the surface, this finish is more normal than impressive. However, in an otherwise strong year, Earnhardt struggled in the Chase last season and was forced from the car with concussion issues. This was enough to leave question marks hanging over his head entering this season.
It was important for Jr. to prove to himself, his team and everyone else that he was ready to put all of that behind him and get back on track. He did just that.
The defending series champ had a rough day on Sunday, but somehow still managed to make it work for him. Brad Keselowski was involved in two wrecks. The first sent him to the pits for some patchwork repairs during the race and the second, with just 60 laps to go, likely would have ended his day had he not made a nice save.
Despite this, BK was still a huge factor.
Not only did he get his No. 2 Miller Lite across the finish line, but he did so as the leading Ford in the race, which Ford Racing tweeted:
Official Brad Keselowski was the high finishing Ford in 4th place in what could only be described as a frantic... fb.me/BfMbDTBo— Ford Racing (@FordRacing) February 24, 2013
If there was anyone wondering if BK would suffer a championship let down this year, I think it is safe to move on from those thoughts.