Daytona Beach, FL, United States (4E Sports) – Jimmie Johnson pulled away from Brad Keselowski on the final restart with six laps remaining and staved off a late challenge by Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the 55th running of the Daytona 500 Sunday.
Johnson’s second Daytona 500 win came in his 400th career Cup start, increasing his career victories to 61. He became one of just 10 drivers to win Great American Race on multiple occasions.
“It is just awesome, there’s no other way to describe it,” said Johnson, who ran just one lap in this race last season before he was involved in a crash.
“Four hundred starts, every one of those starts with primary sponsor Lowe’s and Hendrick Motorsports. To be the first to win in a Gen-6 car … I’m just very proud of the moment,” he added.
Earnhardt finished second, just 0.129 seconds behind Johnson while Mark Martin placed third. Keselowski, the defending series champion, was fourth and Ryan Newman fifth.
Competing full time in Cup for the first time, Danica Patrick became the first woman to lead a lap in the event, spearheading the pack at lap 90 of the 200-lap event before settling for eighth place, 0.657 seconds behind the winner.
Greg Biffle (6th), Regan Smith (7th), Michael McDowell (9th) and JJ Yeley (10th) completed the top 10 finishers in the event.
Toyota entries dominated the early part of the race with defending champion Matt Kenseth leading four times for a race-high 86 laps.
However, problems under the hood struck Kenseth and teammate Kyle Busch moments apart, leaving them 37th and 34th, respectively.
Less than a quarter of the way into the event, several race favorites fell by the wayside when a nine-car incident unfolded just past the start/finish line.
Kevin Harvick was caught up in the crash that began when Kasey Kahne’s Chevrolet turned hard to the left after contact from behind. Tony Stewart, bidding for his first Daytona 500 win, was also among those involved.