500 goes to McMurrayDAYTONA BEACH, Florida - Jamie McMurray held off a hard-charging Dale Earnhardt Jr. over a wild, two-lap sprint to win Nascar’s Daytona 500 on Sunday.
The race was stopped twice and delayed for more than two hours because of a pothole at Daytona International Speedway, and the setback nearly derailed the event - which ended more than six hours after the first green flag. Nascar struggled to patch the hole, and drivers knew the pavement could tear at any time.
It meant they had to race hard the final 80 miles (128 kilometers). Then a flurry of late-race accidents put Nascar’s “green-white-checker” policy - an overtime of sorts - to the test.
McMurray, using a boost from former teammate Greg Biffle, powered into the lead on the second and final green-white-checkered attempt. But Earnhardt, who restarted the final sprint in 10th place, was slicing his way through the field.
He weaved in and out of traffic, shoving his Chevrolet into three-wide lines, eventually darting his way to McMurray’s bumper. It was vintage Earnhardt - he’s a 12-time Daytona winner spanning Nascar’s top-two series - and McMurray was terrified to see him growing in his rearview mirror.
“When I saw the 88 behind me, I thought, ‘Oh no.’ He had a good car and I just thought - Earnhardt and Daytona, they win all the time, it just seems like,” McMurray said. “You never know what to expect.”
But with just two laps to make up so much ground, Earnhardt ran out of time and had to settle for second as McMurray sailed to his first career Daytona 500 victory.
“I didn’t know where I was, you know, till I really kind of got done almost wrecking down the back straightaway,” Earnhardt said of his charge. “Then I looked up - there’s just one car in front of me, ‘Jamie’s gonna win this damn race!’
“He deserves it. They’ve been through a lot. It’s a great team.”
McMurray climbed from his car and ran to the Daytona 500 logo in the infield, dropping to his knees and pounding on the painted grass. Overcome with emotion, he sobbed in Victory Lane as he celebrated with his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team. AP