It took Tony Stewart until 1:45 am to finally get his Daytona victory but he did it in style. Stewart promptly exited the No. 20 Chevy climbed the fence to the flag stand and commandeered the checkered flag.
A grueling rain delay, several multi-car crashes and strategy galore never faltered the No. 20 team. Once Stewart cleared traffic and got into clean air his ride rocketed around the 2.5-mile superspeedway unchallenged.
Everyone else was just hanging on to Stewart's coattails.
"I am too damn fat to be climbing fences," Stewart joked. "I had to do it once; I always wanted to climb a fence. I always thought they go all the way to the top so I wanted to go all the way up.
"I finally got me a trophy here."
"Honestly I was just trying to finish this race," said McMurray. "When we unloaded off the truck I told the guys if we don't spin out we'll be fast because on old tires the car just drove so good.it's cool."
The No. 8 Chevy team of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finally got the run they needed to keep their championship hopes alive. He finished third and moves to 16th in standings.
"I was glad," said Earnhardt. "Tony helped me get my first 500 win so it was good to see him have that kind of car tonight.maybe with the right push I could have raced Tony a little bit but everyone in the field is probably saying that.
"He had an awesome car."
Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett complete the top five.
Stewart brought the field to the green flag after the start of the race was delayed due to rain for 2 hours and 34 minutes but there was still no racing in site. NASCAR used the field to help assist in drying the 2.5-mile speedway and decided they might as well start counting laps throwing the green and the yellow flag.
NASCAR's biggest night race finally went green on lap 12 at 11:00 PM on the East Coast. Although it had been hurry-up and wait all day, driver's exercised patience in the races initial green flag laps, testing the track conditions before breaking out into wide open racing.
As is always a symptom on restrictor plate race tracks, the field also remained calm for so long. As Stewart was leading, Jeff Gordon attempted to signal the field that he was coming to pit road. As Gordon slowed the 'big one' erupted behind him on lap 34.
Involved in the crash were Earnhardt, Jr., Mark Martin, Scott Riggs, Kurt Busch, Casey Mears, Ken Schrader, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte and Scott Wimmer.
As the teams were close to their fuel windows when the caution came out for the first multi-car incident most cars just made it in for the fuel stops. The odd man out was Elliott Sadler whose No. 38 Ford ran out of gas and had to be pushed to pit road by the tow truck.
Stewart continued to lead on lap 40 when the field restarted and stayed up front through several on track skirmishes; the most significant of which came at lap 72 when the Michael Waltrip cut down a tire and got into point leader Greg Biffle; causing extensive damage to both rides.
The No. 20 Chevy of Stewart lost the lead a few times as different pit strategies played out, but anytime Stewart fell back it only took him a few laps to wheel his way back to the top spot.
With 15 to go, Stewart showed the way when a bobble by the No. 31 of Jeff Burton sparked a multi-car incident involving Kevin Harvick, Wimmer, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Sadler and Robby Gordon.
The field restarted for the last time on lap 151 but Stewart jumped out to an impressive lead over McMurray, who tried with all of his might to suck the No. 42 Dodge up to Stewart's bumper.
In the end, no one had the muscle to catch Stewart; who leaves Daytona with his 21rst career victory.
After a week off, Jimmie Johnson grabs back his spot atop Nextel point standings. Greg Biffle (-73), Tony Stewart (-136), Elliott Sadler (-200), Rusty Wallace (-205), Ryan Newman (-263), Jamie McMurray (-285), Mark Martin (-310), Kurt Busch (-348), and Dale Jarrett (-348) complete the top ten.