Click above for high-res gallery of the 2009 Daytona 500
As we mentioned yesterday, the Autoblog team watches a lot of motorsports, but NASCAR isn't usually one of them. None of us found ourselves in front of the TV for yesterday's running of the Daytona 500, the sport's biggest race and inaugural contest to kick off the season. From what we're told, we didn't miss too much. There were left turns (lots of them), crashes and the race was cut short with 48 laps left to go on account of rain. Who was out front when the rains came? Follow the jump to find out.
[Source: New York Times | Photos: Getty Images]
The 2009 Daytona 500 was won by none other than Matt Kenseth, the guy who didn't win a race last year and had gone 36 races without standing atop a podium. After the race was called due to rain and Kenseth declared the winner, the Roush Fenway Racing driver joked, "It's going to be really wet out here because I'm crying like a baby." Kenseth actually started the race at the back of the pack because his primary Dewalt-sponsored Ford Fusion was wrecked during qualifying on Thursday.
The race itself was, of course, interrupted by a number of crashes, but they're only talking about one today. It occurred on Lap 124 and was caused by Brian Vickers and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Both drivers were more than a lap down and out of contention at that moment, but their tangling at the bottom of the track caused a mess in front of the entire field that took out three-time Sprint Cup defending champion Jimmy Johnson, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, among others. With those three out of the way, winning became a real possibility for many remaining drivers who weren't given a real chance at the outset.
Earnhardt, Jr. had actually already been penalized twice for major errors in the pits, including driving past his pit stall and not stopping his car fully inside the stall. Needless to say, Earnhardt, Jr. didn't have many fans among his peers after the race was over.
Kenseth's win does come at the expense of some hard work put in by Elliot Sadler, who had taken the lead on Lap 122 and held it for 24 laps. Having no idea there were only six laps to go, Kenseth made his move to pass Sadler with a push from Kevin Harvick. Not long after the heavens opened up and a rain-soaked Daytona declared Kenseth the winner instead of Sadler.
Among the normal festivities of Daytona weekend, this year's race did feature one unique element: the presence of one Cole Trickle, a.k.a. actor Tom Cruise. Cruise was on hand to drive the Chevy Camaro Pace Car during ceremonial laps before the race began. The actor even reprised his role by hopping into the actual Chevy Lumina stock car used during the filming of Days of Thunder.