The Closest Daytona 500 Ever

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By: Joshua Hodges

The race is on! Sunny skies, shouting spectators, hazardous handling, and fierce competition made for another exciting Daytona 500. The 500 was held by NASCAR yesterday at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Despite a clear track and sunny skies, the 200-lap event was plagued by handling issues which led to several wipeouts, by rookie racers and veteran drivers alike. The chaos began on lap 19, which saw Kevin Harvick narrowly avoid a spin out on Turn 4. On the same turn of the same lap, Sprint-Cup rookie Chase Elliot wasn’t so lucky.

Elliot, successor to soon-to-be-retired driver Jeff Gordon, is the youngest racer of all time to win the pole position at the start of the 500-mile race. Elliot’s car made contact with Carl Edwards’ and Elliot couldn’t avoid spinning out onto victory lawn. As soon as his car left the pavement, the grass seemed to explode up and out from underneath; this caused severe damage to his car and forced him to retrieve his backup car, which costed him forty laps.

Lap 57 saw Brian Vickers, filling in for an injured Tony Stewart, make bumper-to-bumper contact with Joey Logano, last year’s winner. The ensuing chaos saw Vickers come out of a two-car wipeout with no damage whatsoever, near the entrance to pit road. Edwards, who once again found himself in the middle of the chaos, wasn’t so lucky this time. Edwards clipped a wall on his front-right corner, necessitating some mid-race repair.

On lap 92, in the only wreck that didn’t occur on Turn 4, rookies: Chris Buescher and Matt Dibenedetto could not break contact from one another, and slammed headlong into the wall on Turn 1, ruining both of their days.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Gregg Biffle had two mishaps three laps apart: he scraped a wall on lap 116, and his right rear tire shredded apart on lap 119—it turned out the tire was on the wrong side of the car and was intended for the left side.

Many fans were disappointed when Dale Earnhardt Jr. wiped out on turn 4 in lap 170—skidding across the infield, he slammed a wall head-on, popping the lid off his hood. Many fans were rooting for Earnhardt Jr., since this race marked the 15th anniversary of his father’s death in the same race. Danica Patrick fared better—when she and Biffle wiped out on Lap 184, her car followed Earnhardt’s path, but Patrick limited her damage to a broken bumper, and though her car went airborne, it neither flipped over nor hit the wall.

Patrick’s wipeout caused a caution flag during which, Denny Hamlen was allowed a free pass lap; this allowed him to overtake 30-lap leader Matt Kennseth on the last turn of the last lap and win the race by four inches, in what D.W. called “The Closes 500 Ever”.

None of the racers were injured in yesterday’s wipeouts.

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