Matt Kenseth rounded out a week of Roush Fenway domination at Daytona by winning a wild Daytona 500 that finally concluded at 1am local time on Tuesday morning.
The 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion bounced back from early cooling issues that almost put him a lap down, to get back in contention at the front of the field, where teamwork with Greg Biffle proved vital to putting him in position to win NASCAR's biggest race for the second time in his career.
The race, which had already been postponed from Sunday afternoon to Monday night due to rain, was red-flagged for two hours with 40 laps to go after a bizarre incident in which Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet-dryer vehicle. The Colombian was trying to catch up with the field after pitting under caution when he spun into the course vehicle, which then exploded into flames. No one was injured.
Following nearly six hours of drafting, close racing, carnage and drama, the 500 finally came down to a green-white-chequered finish after an incident involving multiple drivers, including reigning champion Tony Stewart, brought out the caution flags for the 10th time during the night.
Kenseth led the final restart and promptly pulled in front of Biffle to create a Roush Fenway tandem, while Dale Earnhardt Jr (Hendrick Chevrolet) was able to get in their draft as the trio opened a gap to Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin and the chasing pack.
After passing the white flag Biffle and Earnhardt seemed to be timing their move for the lead but despite the Hendrick driver pushing Biffle along the backstretch they were unable to get a run on Kenseth, who motored away to his second Daytona 500 win.
Kenseth had already won last Thursday in the second duel qualifying race, while his team-mates had swept the front row of the grid in qualifying last week.
The Wisconsin native becomes only the eighth driver to win both his races at Daytona in the same week and also gave his boss Jack Roush his second success in NASCAR's 'Superbowl'.
"We had a lot of problems and almost ended up a lap down," said Kenseth about his early dramas, as he lost coolant during the first quarter of the distance and was forced to pit to purge the system. "I had my radio break and my tach break and we pushed all the water out and had to come in and put water in it. These guys did a great job. They never panicked and I think they enjoyed their day more because they couldn't hear me on the radio with my radio problems."
Earnhardt eventually prevented a Roush one-two, passing Biffle for second before the chequered flag, while Hamlin finished fourth ahead of the Richard Childress Racing trio of Jeff Burton, Paul Menard and Kevin Harvick, who failed to get enough momentum on the last restart to pose a serious threat for victory.
The race had seen carnage from as early as lap two, when five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson spun before Turn 1 after being tapped by RCR's Elliott Sadler, with another five cars ending up involved including last year's winner Trevor Bayne and Cup debutant Danica Patrick.
Although the threat of further rain delays did not come to pass, Montoya's unfortunate incident did bring out the red flags for more than two hours. The Earnhardt Ganassi driver lost control of his car due to a suspected transmission failure while running under caution and crashed into the back a jet-dryer truck.
The impact against the vehicle, which carries around 200 of Kerosene, resulted in a massive fire from which Montoya, the truck driver and other safety workers luckily escaped unharmed.
"Something fell in the rear of the car and the car just spun into the jet dryer," Montoya explained. "I felt a vibration and came in. They looked at everything and everything was OK and I still told them 'I think there is something broke' and I was coming back into the pits and the car just spun by itself."
NASCAR estimated attendance for the event, which ran at prime-time in the US, at 140,000 fans, only 40,000 short of the orginal estimate for Sunday.
Results - 202 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford 3h36m02.000s
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 0.210s
3. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 0.258s
4. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota + 0.613s
5. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 0.771s
6. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 0.999s
7. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 1.031s
8. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 1.141s
9. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 1.151s
10. Mark Martin Waltrip Toyota + 1.166s
11. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 1.249s
12. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 1.261s
13. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 1.345s
14. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 1.380s
15. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet + 1.474s
16. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 1.516s
17. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 1.644s
18. Terry Labonte FAS Lane Ford + 1.894s
19. Tony Raines Front Row Ford + 2.050s
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford + 5.054s
21. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 6.382s
22. Landon Cassill BK Toyota + 22.939s
23. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 1 lap
24. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 2 laps
25. Casey Mears Germain Ford + 3 laps
26. David Reutimann BK Toyota + 6 laps
27. Elliott Sadler Childress Chevrolet + 6 laps
28. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota + 8 laps
Did not finish:
Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 189 laps
Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 189 laps
Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 188 laps
Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge 187 laps
Aric Almirola Petty Ford 187 laps
AJ Allmendinger Penske Dodge 177 laps
Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford 164 laps
Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet 159 laps
David Stremme Inception Toyota 156 laps
Danica Patrick Baldwin Chevrolet 138 laps
Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet 113 laps
Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet 81 laps
Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge 25 laps
Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 1 lap
David Ragan Front Row Ford 1 lap