Daytona 500: Petty Racing race report

OVERVIEW: The Daytona 500, NASCAR's most prestigious race and season opener, was nothing short of spectacular Sunday. Forty-three drivers started the race, and by the end of the event nearly half the field still had a chance at victory. The...

OVERVIEW:

The Daytona 500, NASCAR's most prestigious race and season opener, was nothing short of spectacular Sunday. Forty-three drivers started the race, and by the end of the event nearly half the field still had a chance at victory. The race began unassuming. Drivers raced side-by-side and single-file for the opening half of the race. The dominant cars were that of Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and brother Kurt. Kurt Busch led the majority of the laps and looked as strong as anyone. Things changed.

Tony Stewart slipped in his #20 Chevrolet and Kurt Busch collected him. The accident took a heavy toll on both cars, and ended both drivers chance for victory. The final 100 laps saw great action. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex, Jimmie Johnson and Busch all took turns battling for the lead. All, however, ended their day with accidents. The door open, Mark Martin in his new Ginn Racing Chevrolet became the car to beat. He looked like he was on his way to his first Daytona 500 win, but, again, things changed. A late-race caution sent this race into "overtime". Martin was leading, but in the final two laps it was Kevin Harvick emerging from the pack to take the lead over Martin. A major accident occurred, but both Harvick and Martin raced to the line. Harvick was out front by a nose and had the win. Martin finished second and Jeff Burton third.

Bobby Labonte and the #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge team earned the 21st finishing position in Sunday's Daytona 500. It was an eventful day for driver and crew. Labonte started the race in the 27th position. He battled a very tight handling car as he raced mid-pack early in the race. The car became so tight that Labonte dropped to the rear until pit stops. A lack of early-race cautions, the Paul Andrews-led crew had to make major adjustments on each stop. The car was better, but still tight after the long green runs. The team's best friend at the end of the race became the caution flag. Labonte masterfully avoided every major accident and took advantage of them by gaining positions. The last caution, however, didn't help Labonte. The #43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge had to slow for car wrecking in front of him. NASCAR did not immediately throw the caution, instead allowing Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick race for the win, and Labonte finished behind most cars that wrecked across the line. The team still finished 21st and did not have a wrecked car at the end. It's a positive way to start the season.

"You had to avoid the wrecks at the end," said Labonte. "We did and came out 21st. That's where things lined up for us at the end. We were tight racing in the pack like that early. We came around a little at the end and started getting up there. We had trouble finding some guys to draft with, but we got to the finish. It's better than a lot of guys out there."

Kyle Petty and the #45 Wells Fargo Dodge team ran into problems during Sunday's Daytona 500. Petty started the race in the 29th position and raced early with Mike Wallace. Wallace eventually finished fourth and credited Petty for keeping him in contention early. Petty might have been with Wallace at the end, if it weren't for a tire rub that caused a blown tire for the #45 Wells Fargo Dodge team. Petty's car came off the jack during a pit stop causing the body of the car to rub against the tire. Petty's tire blew on the track and the team was sent to the garage to make repairs. The team came back out and Petty completed 160 laps to finish 42nd.

"We just had a problem on pit road today," said Petty. "We blew the right-front tire and had a lot of damage we needed to fix. The guys got the car back out there, but you didn't see many wrecks earlier in the day. We got as many laps as possible. It's a shame for everyone, but Fontana is only a week away."

-credit: petty racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kyle Petty , Kevin Harvick , Mike Wallace , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Martin Truex Jr. , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin