DAYTONA BEACH - The cracked, patched and deteriorating track held up better than most of the cars and some of the competitors late Saturday.
A wild race at Daytona International Speedway - the last one on the track's 32-year-old surface - ended with Kevin Harvick winning, Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer spinning through the infield grass and several angry drivers searching for answers.
Just another restrictor-plate race? Maybe. But this was chaotic even by the standards set at NASCAR's most famous track.
"Every time I looked up, there was a crash going on," second-place finisher Kasey Kahne said.
It seemed that way, especially over the final 45 of 160 scheduled laps in the Coke Zero 400. Six multicar crashes essentially took out half the field. The biggest, a 20-car melee with 12 laps left, halted action for 20 minutes.
Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch had a heated exchange. Edwards felt Busch roughed him up on the final lap. Busch's car hit the wall just past the finish line.
"He ended up wrecking himself," Edwards said. "I guess it didn't work out for him."
Busch reminded all that Edwards deliberately retaliated against Busch's teammate, Brad Keselowski, this year at Atlanta.
"He completely turned right after the start/finish line," Busch said. " ... We've seen him turn right before and wreck a Penske car."
With the last-lap action taking place in his rearview mirror, Harvick cruised across the finish line for his second victory of 2010.
"This has been a great place for us," he said. "Daytona has been one of those magical places for us ever since we started coming here."
Jeff Gordon was third, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who might have benefited most from all those crumpled cars.
Earnhardt ran in the middle of the pack all night and radioed to crew chief Lance McGrew that, "It ain't gonna drive good no matter what." But Earnhardt eluded the big one with a nifty move low and rose to 11th in points - within the top 12 for the Chase for the Championship cutoff.
"We got lucky, real lucky to get what we got," Earnhardt said. "I'm proud of the work the guys did, but you'd rather be good than lucky."
The Daytona action could become hairier in February. Today, the track begins a complete revamping project that could create even edgier racing.
"Just wait," warned veteran Mark Martin, who escaped a fiery crash unharmed. "We're going to do it bigger than that, I'll bet ya. Everybody better pull their straps down tight."