Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Sports

Matt Kenseth wins wildest Daytona 500 ever

RECOMMENDED READING


DAYTONA BEACH — The wildest Daytona 500 ever began with water and featured smoke rising into the night sky.

For champion Matt Kenseth and the rest of the field.

Kenseth overcame 36 hours of rain and fire delays, plus radiator and communication problems to edge Dale Earnhardt Jr. and teammate Greg Biffle and claim his second Daytona 500 victory early Tuesday morning in a green-white-checkered finish.

"I wasn't expecting to win when I woke up this morning," Kenseth said.

But he and his Roush Fenway Racing team stood in victory lane early Tuesday morning, with a tired Kenseth hoisting his second Daytona trophy almost 36 hours after the race was scheduled to begin.

Rain postponed Sunday's 1 p.m. start until noon Monday for the first time in the race's 54-year history. More showers delayed the green flag again, until 7 p.m. A fiery explosion from Juan Pablo Montoya's crash into a safety truck and track-drying its jet engine added a two-hour delay but injured no one.

"It's been a long night," Earnhardt said of the Great American Race's first primetime run.

A six-car wreck on the second lap made the night longer for Danica Patrick, who finished 38th in her Sprint Cup debut. Jimmie Johnson got a nudge from Elliott Sadler and ended the five-time series champion's run. The ensuing crash collected Patrick and defending race champion Trevor Bayne.

"Unfortunately we've got another crashed GoDaddy car," Patrick said after her third accident of the week.

Things didn't start well for Kenseth's No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, either.

He fell into 32nd position by lap 70 when a radiator problem sent water shooting from his hood like a fountain. His car's communication was down, too. He could listen to his crew, but they couldn't hear him.

"We had a lot of problems," Kenseth said.

So did the track after a wicked explosion.

With 100 miles to go, Montoya's No. 42 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy lost control on the backstretch during caution. He had complained of vibrations in his car, but his team found nothing wrong during a pit stop.

Moments later as he dropped into fourth gear to catch up to the pack, Montoya felt the rear of his car slip. It slid 180 degrees and slammed into one of the three safety trucks equipped with track-drying jet engines near the entrance of Turn 3.

"I have a hit a lot of things," Montoya said, "but a jet dryer? I mean, no."

Orange flames shot to the sky, but Montoya and the truck driver emerged from the accident safely. Both were checked out at area hospitals but sustained no serious injuries.

Their vehicles and track were not so lucky. The blast destroyed the front of Montoya's car and burned his helmet. It damaged the truck's trailer beyond recognition. Track president Joie Chitwood III estimated that 200 gallons of jet fuel spilled onto the track.

"It got your attention really quick," NASCAR president Mike Helton said.

Almost three dozen safety vehicles gathered near the turn to hose down the blaze as black smoke billowed past the speedway's lights and into the dark sky. Red flashing lights lined the corner long after the flames died out and a forklift carted off the vehicles' remains. Workers spread absorbent material and laundry detergent on the asphalt and spent most of the two-hour, five-minute delay to get the track ready for the last 40 laps.

When the red flag came out, Dave Blaney was in the lead because he hadn't yet pitted a final time.

Blaney wasn't even the top driver on his team - that was Patrick, who took Tommy Baldwin Racing's automatic spot in the field. Blaney needed a 12th-place finish in the Gatorade Duel II just to qualify, but his car led the field with 40 laps left.

"After you do this stuff, long enough, you always think, 'What's next?"' said Blaney's crew chief, Ryan Pemberton. "You see some of the darnedest things."

Blaney lost the lead when he fueled up around midnight, and Kenseth's quickest final pit stop gave him the lead. The 39-year-old survived three late wrecks that included 19 cars, including a caution on lap 198 that forced Daytona's sixth green-white-checkered finish in the last eight races.

He held off a late charge as Earnhardt pushed Biffle - Kenseth's teammate - before taking the 22nd checkered flag of his career.

"It's like the 17 had more motor at the end," said Biffle, who edged Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton. "We couldn't catch him."

In one of the wildest races in NASCAR history, no one could catch Kenseth, who led 50 laps, including the last 38. Only Hamlin (57 laps) led more.

In 2009, Kenseth took the checkered flag here at a rain-shortened Daytona 500. Three years later, he was celebrating at another soggy weekend, smoking his tires outside Turn 4, as early-morning fog began to roll over the lights of the sleepy speedway.

     
 
Comments
Flames ride hot Gaudreau, beat Capitals

Flames ride hot Gaudreau, beat Capitals

WASHINGTON — Johnny Gaudreau would rather talk about anything other than his offensive production. He’s just making it impossible to avoid. Gaudreau had a goal and an assist to extend his career-best point streak to 10 games and lead the Flames to a ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Cavs roll over Pistons, close in on Central lead

Cavs roll over Pistons, close in on Central lead

DETROIT — An emphatic win over a first-place opponent had LeBron James and the Cavaliers talking confidently again. "We haven’t had a win like that in a very long time," James said. "That’s what happens when we don’t let up." James scored 16 of his 1...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Tuesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingWelterweights: Alexander vs. Castillo7:30 p.m.FS1College basketballMaui Invitational semifinal1:30 p.m.ESPNLegends Classic third-place game3:30 p.m.ESPNUMaui Invitational consolation game4 p.m.ESPN2Legends Classic final6 p.m.ESPN2George Ma...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Florida A&M football coach Alex Wood resigns

TALLAHASSEE — Alex Wood resigned as Florida A&M football coach Monday, two days after the Rattlers completed their season. Athletic director Milton Overton Jr. said offensive line coach Edwin Pata, a former FSU tight end, will serve as interim coach....
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

ST. PETERSBURG — That the Rays went right up to Monday’s 8 p.m. deadline in deciding to add seven players to the 40-man roster, and that a couple they left off seem to be potential Rule 5 draft losses, was apparently a good thing."There’s always some...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs journal: Dirk Koetter says Doug Martin’s not at fault for struggling running game

Bucs journal: Dirk Koetter says Doug Martin’s not at fault for struggling running game

TAMPA — RB Doug Martin had just 38 yards on 19 carries in Sunday’s win against the Dolphins, but coach Dirk Koetter said his team’s struggles running the ball shouldn’t go squarely on his running back."In my opinion, he is not the reason we’re not mo...
Updated: 6 hours ago
HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Nick Ferrini and Kellyn Trowse

HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Nick Ferrini and Kellyn Trowse

HomeTeam Hot Shots Nick Ferrini, MitchellOn Monday, Ferrini embarked on a five-day cruise with 30 family members. "Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, you name it," he said. Destinations during the trip include Key West, The Bahamas and a...
Updated: 6 hours ago
UF has little to say after meeting with Kelly

UF has little to say after meeting with Kelly

GAINESVILLE — At last, there’s some actual smoke to the Chip Kelly-Florida rumors.The Gators sent a group — including president Kent Fuchs and athletic director Scott Stricklin — to New Hampshire on Sunday to talk with the former Oregon coach about U...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Reeling Broncos fire offensive coordinator

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Monday and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave. Klint Kubiak will take over as QBs coach while Musgrave calls plays for the final six weeks of a soured season tha...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Sports in brief

Sports in brief

OBITUARYnovotna, known for endearing embrace, dies at 49PRAGUE — Jana Novotna, a tennis Hall of Famer who sobbed on the shoulder of a member of the British royal family after a heartbreaking loss in a Wimbledon final, died Sunday at the age of 49. Th...
Updated: 6 hours ago