Jimmie Johnson Wins Second Daytona 500
Kicking off the season in style, the Daytona 500 carries the largest purse of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events and is widely considered to be the season’s most prestigious race. Covering a distance of 500 miles, it is one of the four restrictor plate races on the Sprint Cup Series calendar and is a test of driver skill and endurance. Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag on Sunday, notching up his second Daytona 500 victory. Dale Earnhardt Jr. came in at second place, followed by Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman in third, fourth and fifth places respectively. After earning pole position for the race, Danica Patrick crossed the finish line in eighth place.
Restrictor plates are used at superspeedways (Talladega and Daytona) to slow cars down and have been the subject of much controversy as some drivers have expressed concern that the use of restrictor plates results in the field bunching up and thereby increasing the risk level of racing as top drivers try to pull away from the crowd. Fortunately, there were no major incidents at this year’s Daytona 500, maybe because drivers are well aware of the increased risk and remained huddled together for the first 180 laps. When Johnson pulled to the front, he clearly intended to stay there, and it was a close race between Johnson and Earnhardt. While Earnhardt made every effort to claim his second first place, with a little more than a mile to go, Earnhardt and third place winner Martin went low on the track. Johnson maneuvered his way to the front and took first place, closely followed by Earnhardt and veteran NASCAR driver Martin.
As the first woman to win pole position at the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick led three times in the race, finishing eighth and making NASCAR history, yet again, as the highest finish for a female driver at this exciting annual event. In a post-race interview Patrick noted that it was a “solid day” and was clearly pleased to have stayed in the top 10 through the race.