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Kenseth reigns in the Daytona 500 again



Daytona Beach, FL (Sports Network) - Matt Kenseth overcame overheating issues and then avoided two big crashes on the tri-oval before holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle in a green-white-checkered finish to win Monday night's Daytona 500, a race delayed 30 hours due to rain and another two hours following an explosive crash on the track late in the race at Daytona International Speedway.

With 40 laps remaining, Juan Pablo Montoya's car slammed into a jet drying vehicle while the race was under caution. Montoya was traveling at a high rate of speed on the backstretch while rejoining the field, but Montoya lost control and slid into the back of the jet dryer located in turn three. The vehicle, which had jet fuel on board, burst into flames.

"Something fell in the rear of the car, and the car just spun into the jet dryer," Montoya said. "I felt a vibration and came in. [The team] looked at everything, and everything was ok, and I still told them 'I think there is something broke,' and I was coming back into the pits, and the car just spun by itself."

There were no injuries, as occupants in the vehicle quickly exited. However, the driver of the jet dryer, Duane Barnes, needed assistance in getting out of the vehicle. Barnes was taken to a nearby hospital in Daytona Beach for further precautionary reasons.

"He came with me [in the ambulance]," Montoya noted. "He was pretty scared, but he looked OK."

NASCAR halted the race for an extensive track cleanup effort.

Dave Blaney was leading the way when the Daytona 500 was stopped, but Blaney had to pit when it resumed, allowing Kenseth to take over the top position for good.

A pair of multi-car crashes occurred on the tri-oval during the closing laps. Seven drivers were involved in the first one, while eight were caught up in the last wreck, which set up the two-lap overtime finish.

Kenseth pulled away from Biffle, his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, and Earnhardt Jr. coming out of the final turn on the last lap. He beat Earnhardt Jr. to the finish line by 0.2 seconds.

"We had a really fast car all day, had a lot of adversity to overcome, a lot of problems with the car," said Kenseth, who led 50 laps, including the final 38. "We were able to get it figured out and had a great pit stop at the end that put us in position, and it feels great. I wasn't expecting to win when I woke up this morning, so it feels good to be sitting here."

Kenseth, the 2003 Sprint Cup Series champion, became the ninth different driver to win the Daytona 500 multiple times. His first Daytona 500 victory came in the rain-shortened 2009 event. Kenseth also ended a streak of 11 different winners in the last 11 Daytona 500s.

"We even went overtime a little bit, since we didn't quite go the whole distance the first time we won it," he said.

Kenseth also won last Thursday's second Gatorade Duel, giving Roush Fenway Racing its first victory in the Daytona 500 qualifying races.

Roush Fenway also claimed its 300th NASCAR national touring series victory, with 126 of them coming in Sprint Cup, 124 in the Nationwide Series and 50 in the Camping World Truck Series.

"It's very fitting that Matt won the 300th victory here that we've had since we started in 1988," team owner Jack Roush said. "It's great to celebrate our 300th win here with the 54th Daytona 500, of course being Matt's second 500 win makes it special as well."

Earnhardt Jr.'s winless streak in NASCAR's premier series has now stretched to 130 races.

"I would have loved to win that race," he said. "Matt had a strong car, and the Roush guys were really quick."

Biffle finished a half-car length behind Earnhardt Jr. to take third place.

"I couldn't pull up on the 17 [Kenseth]," Biffle said. "It was like the 17 had more motor or something at the end. He floored it, and you couldn't catch him."

Denny Hamlin, who led the most laps with 57, placed fourth, while Jeff Burton completed the top-five.

For the first time in its 54-year history, the Daytona 500 was delayed one day due to rain. More precipitation on Monday afternoon pushed back the start time to just after 7 p.m. (et), making it the first Daytona 500 to run at night.

It didn't take long for the first big crash to occur, which involved Danica Patrick, who made her first start in a Sprint Cup points race, Jimmie Johnson, the five-time series champion, and defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne.

Following the completion of the first lap in the 500-mile race, Elliott Sadler tapped Johnson from behind, which turned him sideways and into the wall. Johnson then slid down the track before David Ragan plowed into the side of him.

"I'm just really, really bummed to start the season this way," Johnson said.

Johnson, Ragan and Busch failed to finish the race, while Bayne's team repaired his car and got him back on the track shortly after the incident. Patrick also returned but was more than 60 laps behind.

"They were working hard to get me back on the track," said Patrick, who wound up finishing 38th. "Was there much to gain as far as position-wise? No. But what there was to gain was for me to get the experience of running out there and run in packs for a while. The car is a little bit bent up, so honestly it didn't feel perfect."

Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, suffered engine failure on lap 81, which put him out of the race as well.

Martin Truex Jr. claimed a $200,000 bonus for leading at the halfway point. The inaugural "Daytona 500 Mid-Race Leader Award" went to the driver who led the way at the completion of the 100th lap in the 200-lap race. Biffle led the 99th lap, but Truex got a friendly push from fellow Toyota driver Denny Hamlin to put him ahead of the field on the following circuit.

02/28 04:03:54 ET