As usual with these over-hyped events, folks came up with all kinds of stuff that, supposedly, is needed to win the Daytona 500.
The right spoiler angles, fuel mileage, quick pit stops _ everything, except the obvious: driving the wheels off the competition.
With 30 laps to go Sunday and Davey Allison on the point at Daytona International Speedway, all that other stuff didn't mean diddly. Allison's streaking Ford was about to put a lap on its shadow, which meant Morgan Shepherd's chase was all in vain. With the 190-mph swagger of a man with something to prove, Allison not only held off the wiser and more skilled Shepherd, but he also opened a two-car length lead on him as he drove to the checkered flag for the biggest victory of his six-year career.
Geoff Bodine was third, followed by Alan Kulwicki and Dick Trickle. The top five finished on the lead lap. Five-time series champion Dale Earnhardt, who never has won this race, was ninth, one lap off the pace.
In winning the season-opening Winston Cup race in front of 140,000 fans, Davey joined with his father, Bobby, a three-time winner here (1978, 1982 and 1988), as the second father-son duo to win the Daytona 500. The others were Lee and Richard Petty.
Davey Allison, 30, also pocketed $244,050, the second-highest Winston Cup single-race total behind Kyle Petty's $294,450 payday for the 1990 Goodwrench 500.
"I'm shaking all over," Allison said in Victory Lane. "In about 30 minutes, I'll probably collapse from disbelief."
Allison's unbridled speed not only kept Shepherd at bay _ as well as Michael Waltrip before he blew his engine nine laps from the finish _ but it also carried him by the only major spill of the afternoon. During one of the rare times when Allison didn't lead, pole-sitter Sterling Marlin, Bill Elliott and Ernie Irvan tangled while fighting for the lead and triggered the start of a 14-car demolition derby that finished several race favorites. Five drivers _ Dale Jarrett, Chad Little, Bobby Hillin Jr., Ken Schrader and Marlin _ were taken to the infield care center, but only Schrader, who sprained his left ankle, was injured.
Allison, cruising just behind the spinning threesome, floored it past them and into the clear.
"I saw it coming," Allison said, "and I had just enough room to pick where I wanted to go. I just moved to the outside, stood on the gas and went on."
The mishap occurred down the backstretch as Elliott and Irvan tried to pass Marlin on both sides. Just before Elliott and Irvan cleared the front end of Marlin's Ford, they gravitated together, sandwiching Marlin. The contact sent all three swerving, Irvan and Elliott to the infield and Marlin down the middle of the track where he collected the 11 other victims.
"It looked like we run out of real estate," said Marlin, who also was taken out of one of the Twin 125s on Thursday. "I saw Bill coming down and Ernie moving up, and I said, "This ain't going to work.' "
At first, it seemed as if endurance would be the ticket to Victory Lane. The first 80 laps went off without so much as a flat tire. The 42-car field even set a track record of 185.854 mph for that interval, a pace that surely was going to take its toll on some of the front-runners.
Then, once the backstretch crash was cleared, fuel mileage became the crucial variable as drivers and crews frantically tried to conserve fuel in order to make it the final 50 laps or so without stopping.
But that strategy, too, became insignificant after Irvan, the defending champion, spun out between Turns 1 and 2, bringing out another caution period and a final refueling opportunity for the leaders.
So, when the green flag unfurled with 30 laps left, Allison exited the pits, shot past Waltrip, checked his rearview mirror, then flew into Daytona history.
Once Waltrip dropped out with nine trips to go, "I knew if I could stay in front (of Shepherd), he'd have a tough time getting around me," said Allison, who drove a backup car after his primary car was demolished in a practice crash last week.
The victory is a significant addition to the flourishing career of one of Winston Cup's most promising young drivers. It kicks off a season that follows a year in which Allison won a career-high five races and gives him three victories in the past four Winston Cup events dating to last season. Allison finished third in the series points standings last year.
As with any Daytona 500 winner, it also puts Allison him in position to win the Winston Million (Daytona 500, Winston 500, Coca Cola 600 and Southern 500).
"Everybody feels this could be our year," Allison said.