[Spoiler Alert] The run up to the Daytona 500 this past week was monopolized with news of Hendrick Motorsports' Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the fast Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing. In the end, however, neither camp could pull out a win in Daytona. The checkered flag went to Ryan Newman of Penske Racing, who owes his first win at Daytona and the end to an 81-race-long draught to teammate Kyle Busch. We'll forego the theatrics of the first 499 miles and skip right to the last lap, which began with Tony Stewart in the lead. Stewart on the inside, however, couldn't stop Newman who slipped his Dodge in front of Busch's car on the outside as the latter emerged from a draft. The two cars flew by Stewart, and for his unselfish act, Busch earned a second place finish. Stewart, however, called his 3rd place performance "one of the most disappointing moments of my racing career." Ouch.
The win was also the first Daytona victory for team Penske Racing, which, despite winning the Indy 500 a record 14 times, had never crossed the finish line first in Daytona. And what about the other drivers who everyone expected to finish fast? Jeff Gordon had suspension trouble and dropped out on lap 186. Denny Hamlin, who gave Toyota its first ever NASCAR win earlier this week, finished 17th, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., who won both the Bud Shootout and his Gatorade Duel qualifying race, finished 9th.
As for which automaker has the most reason to celebrate after Daytona, the answer is Dodge, whose cars nabbed six of the top ten finishes, including first and second. Toyota, meanwhile, grabbed 3rd and 4th thanks to Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch, respectively. Earnhardt Jr.'s 9th place finish gave Chevy one spot in the top ten, while Greg Biffle drove his Blue Oval car to a 10th place finish.
[Source: NASCAR, Photos - Getty Images]