This, the 53rd edition of the Daytona 500, otherwise known as 'The Great American Race', was nothing short of spectacular. Martina McBride sang the National Anthem while Co-Grand Marshals Josh Duhamel, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Michael Bay (of the new Transformers
movie) uttered the most famous words in motorsports: "Gentleman, start your engines!"
The green flag, commencing the race, waved at 1:29 p.m. EST. In a tribute during Lap 3, fans stood and raised three fingers while observing a lap of silence in memory of Dale Earnhardt, who died at the Daytona 500 in 2001.
The first yellow flag occurred shortly after on Lap 5. Kyle Busch was shoved into the wall by Michael Waltrip. The green flag waved three laps later; at this point, green flag racing wouldn't continue for too long. The second caution came on Lap 11 when smoke was spotted coming from the car of J.J. Yeley.
Michigan native Brad Keselowski led the pack to the green flag on Lap 15. Keselowski is in a new car this year with Penske Racing: the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger, formerly driven by Kurt Busch.
The race continued, and aside from a four lap caution, green flag racing reigned. But, of course, being the Daytona 500, a big-time crash was almost assured. This assurance was soon answered. On Lap 29, Michael Waltrip slammed into the back end of his teammate David Reutimann, causing a chain reaction. Half of the field, including Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Mark Martin, sustained damaged in the wreck.
Six laps later, Jamie McMurray, last year's winner
, led the field to green flag racing. Meanwhile, 14 cars were in the garage being worked on due to the Lap 29 crash.
Regan Smith, who'd later lead the race, pushed Brad Keselowski to the front of the pack and he kept the lead for six or so laps. Keselowski held off Tony Stewart during the stretch. Driver David Blaney took the lead and shortly after, the fifth yellow flag of the day was waved.
After a yellow flag on Lap 57, green flag racing continued for 17 straight laps (starting on Lap 60). As of Lap 73, there had been 26 lead changes in this year's running of the Daytona 500.
On Lap 77, Travis Kvapil got loose and slammed into the outside wall. Lap 80 brought about another green flag and Clint Bowyer led the field with Dale Earnhardt Jr. After the first lap back on green, Junior took the lead. Fans hooted and hollered, in traditional NASCAR fashion. Dale is most definitely one of the fan's favorite drivers.
Fast forwarding to Lap 107, many lead changes later, and after 29 laps of green flag racing, the eighth caution of the day came out. The No. 42 car spun, but driver Juan Pablo Montoya managed to keep it straight and drive it onto pit road. The entire field followed, pitting on the next lap under the yellow flag.
Would this green flag racing (starting on Lap 109) be short-lived? The answer, unsurprisingly, was yes. The ninth caution of the day occurred on Lap 123.
As the green flag waved, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer were leading the pack. By Lap 134, Matt Kenseth would be the next driver to cause a caution. Fellow Ford driver Greg Biffle caught the back end of Kenseth, sending him into the wall. As of Lap 136, only 26 out of the 43 that started were on the lead lap.
Moving ahead just a few laps, Biffle was hit by Montoya. The No. 16 Ford Fusion was taken to the garage with evident damage (seen at right) and would be out for the remainder of the race. On Lap 147, Dale Jr. took the lead from then-leader Regan Smith, who had been in and out of the lead all day. The pair had remained in front for a number of laps. Ryan Newman then took the lead with Denny Hamlin pushing him from behind.
The 12th caution of the day, at Lap 158, was a new Daytona 500 record. Lap-by-lap: Daytona
reported on Lap 159:
"Pit road is open and most of the field pits. Ryan Newman takes fuel only. Dale Jr. avoids debris near his stall, takes two tires and fuel. Kurt Busch takes fuel. Ryan Newman maintains the lead off pit road. Brad Keselowski missed his pit box. Trevor Bayne takes fuel only and has no plans to come back down pit road."
Keselowski's miss caused him to shift back to 17th. Rookie Trevor Bayne, at this point, was in 22nd. The green flag dropped at Lap 163 and wouldn't be out for long. Brad Keselowski got pushed into the wall and would be out for the remainder of the race.
Again, green flag racing would commence and Dale Earnhardt Jr., by the crowd's reaction, took the lead. However, his lead was short-lived. Ryan Newman, David Blaney, and others would take control of the lead over these next few laps.
Yellow flag No. 14 came out as one of Kasey Kahne's tires went flat. With 16 to go, Darrell Waltrip, FOX Sports commentator and former driver said, "It's gonna get a little wild and crazy now."
He was absolutely correct; Newman was in the lead from the green flag being pushed by Hamlin, but Kurt Busch was right on their tails. Would they remain green until the finish? In typical Daytona 500 fashion, on Lap 197, the answer was no. Kurt Busch slammed into the back of Regan Smith, sending him into the wall and out of the race.
The green-white-checker flag
waved on the final scheduled lap. However, another wreck resulted in another try at a green-white-checker.
With a record number of leaders, lead changes, and cautions at the Daytona 500, rookie Trevor Bayne came away with the victory in a stunning finish. This win is Bayne's first win ever. Bayne just turned 20-years-old yesterday. Congratulations to Trevor Bayne!
See full race results here