But that is exactly what happened in a race that went into two overtime green-, white-, checkered flag finishes with the lead changing hands three times on the final two laps. First, it was
There was a Daytona 500-record 21 different leaders in the race. McMurray led the final two laps, the fewest-ever for a Daytona 500 winner. There were 52 lead changes, the third most in Daytona 500 history.
McMurray's Chevrolet defeated Earnhardt's Chevrolet. Biffle's Ford was third followed by
"I told my wife today that if I won tonight, I was going to cry," McMurray said as he broke down in tears. 'It's unreal. It's unbelievable, really. I can't explain it. It's a dream. It really is. To be where I was last year and for
"What a way to have to pay them back. To my wife, Happy Valentine's Day and my dad is here and I'm very emotional. It's very special. After I won at Talladega we went to McDonald's. Tonight, I'm going to have a Big Mac."
McMurray credited Biffle with the push that was needed to win the race that was stopped twice for over two hours because of a hole in the asphalt in turns 1 and 2.
McMurray becomes the 34th different driver to win the Daytona 500. It was his fourth career victory.
While the lengthy red flags sent thousands of fans home early in disgust, those that stayed until the end saw a dramatic finish.
The yellow flag was out for three laps as NASCAR attempt to avoid going into overtime. NASCAR has a maximum of three green-, white-, checkered-flag restarts being used if the race does not end under green.
When the pits opened, cars from 12th on back decided to pit for new tires along with Kurt Busch. But the other cars at the front of the field have decided to stay out setting up a mad scramble for the checkered flag in NASCAR's biggest race of the year.
In what was supposed to be a race that finished in daylight, the Daytona 500 has become a marathon and won't be over until close to 7:30 p.m.
The green flag has waved with 32 laps to go. Speed was in the lead because he did not pit when the pits were opened on lap 164. Roush Fenway drivers
This certainly is not a good scenario for NASCAR as the Daytona 500 attracts the largest television crowd of the year. And while the hole is being blamed on cool weather and heavy rain on Friday, there were two races held on the track Saturday with no asphalt issues.
The track surface at Daytona was last repaved in 1978.
But it became apparent during Sunday's race when all most of the incidents on the track came in the same area -- outside of Turn 2. At first, it was suspected that tires were the issue but the real problem was a six-inch hole developing in between Turns 1 and 2.
So the red flag was displayed and the cars were parked on pit road for 1 hour, 40 minutes and 45 seconds. Several different formulas of asphalt were used to patch the hole but water kept seeping through the track.
The field was turned loose for 19 laps before the track broke up again and the red flag was displayed and the race stopped with 39 laps left.
As nightfall descends on Daytona International Speedway, the lights are on and this race will end at night, but the big question is, will it go the full 500 miles?
The drivers are being called back to their cars as NASCAR attempts to save face and complete the Daytona 500.
But the damage to this year's race has already tarnished what has been a highly competitive Daytona 500 with 44 lead changes among a record 19 drivers.
The yellow flag has been displayed at Lap 160 -- which is the 400-mile mark of the race.
NASCAR now has its worst case scenario. The race is past the halfway point so it is an official race. That means it can be called an official race if the problem cannot be corrected.
The red flag has been displayed and the race has been stopped.
Gordon was able to continue but Allmendinger's car slid directly in front of
On Lap 7, Penske Racing drivers
There is still plenty of time for Speed and Sadler to fullfill my predictions.
As for the front of the field, Sadler and Truex were not exactly the drivers expected to be battling for the victory in NASCAR's biggest race. Perhaps they will use the green-, white-, checkered-flag rule enough times until a driver with more star power ends up winning the race.
Sorry, that's the cynic in me coming out.
Sunday's Daytona 500 has turned into the "Imperfect Storm" as a hole in the track between the second and third turns has brought NASCAR's biggest race to a screeching halt. It's been 93 minutes since the race was red-flagged and the quick-sealing patch that was used to fill the hole proved to be problematic as water began to seep through the asphalt.
Track safety works had to resort to blow-torching the area to put heat into the asphalt sealer, but some of the estimated crowd of 180,000 fans have left the track, trying to get an early start home even though there are 78 laps left in the Daytona 500.
"The normal solutions you normally use to patch the track are not working," France said. "But we're actually turning the corner. We're on the third different solution. Normally, we would have had it resolved a lot quicker. That is the problem.
"The good news is we will get it solved. In the midst of probably our best Daytona 500 in a long time, obviously we want to get it started."
Finally, at 5 p.m. EST, the engines have refired, the drivers are strapped in and the race is about to resume.
May the second half of the Daytona 500 begin.
With the clock nearing 4:30 p.m. ET, the race should be nearing its conclusion after starting at 1p.m. Instead, a crowd of 180,000 fans and millions more on television are watching asphalt dry.
Maybe it's the "calm before the storm" -- that the finish of this year's 500 will end in a shootout.
But for now, it's naptime at the biggest NASCAR race of the year as spectators are growing restless. Instead of watching their heroes battle it out on the track, the drivers are out of the cars sitting on the pit wall.
And the clock keeps ticking ...
The last time the track was paved was in 1978. Since that time, new grandstands, towers, a Daytona Club and other amenities have been added for the spectators, as well as a new media center and press box. Perhaps some attention should have been given to the actual racing surface.
Track officials have indicated the surface will be replaced next year but that was too late to avoid this problem. This is a similar situation that happened at Martinsville Speedway a few years ago.
A special compound of asphalt is being used to repair the damage and racing should be underway soon.
Meantime, the cars left in the race are parked on pit road, giving the drivers a chance to rest and determine their next move once racing continues and that strategy may ultimately pay off with a victory in the Daytona 500 -- a race which so far has yet to develop a personality this year.
Of course, that will all change before the checkered flag waves.
Andretti's day included a hard crash into the second turn wall on Lap 116. Apparently, a tired deflated on his Ford, sending it pile-driving into the wall. That meant another yellow flag caution which gave the crews yet another chance for a pit stop.
And that put -- of all people --
Said has experienced success at Daytona before, but that is in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Said is an experienced road racing driver and had his car in front before he eventually came down pit road.
The caution period was also a huge benefit for four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and 2006 race winner
It just proves that often times, the winner of the Daytona 500 has to be lucky in addition to being good.
Gordon had taken the lead two laps earlier when he passed
Busch didn't stay there long as the younger brother of
The top-five cars include Bowyer, Kyle Busch,
Except for a few minor crashes, this has been a relatively clean race. But that will certainly not be the case in the final half of NASCAR's biggest race.
Biffle took the lead on the 82nd lap to become the 12th different leader in Sunday's race.
The 200-mile mark was completed under caution with
The second yellow flag waved on Lap 66 after
Hornish, who was involved in a crash on the eighth lap that also involved his rookie Penske teammate
The caution period allowed the drivers to make another pit stop and that put Busch back in front of Allmendinger followed by
Johnson is among the many drivers complaining about front-end grip, but with so much sun on the track Sunday, it has changed the conditions on the 2 ½-mile strip of asphalt.
After the series of pit stops were completed,
Allmendinger was the race leader when he passed Kurt Busch on Lap 45. Pit stops on lap 49 including two-time Daytona 500 winner
Busch was the leader of the Daytona 500 after 100 miles on Lap 40.
NASCAR's new rules which include a 63/64ths-inch restrictor-plate -- the largest at Daytona since 1989 -- and some aerodynamic modifications have broken up the normally large pack of race cars that are the usual byproduct of restrictor-plate racing. The lead pack of cars is just three with Busch leading Allmendinger and 2006 Daytona 500 winner Johnson.
While the race fans may prefer a 43-car pack running in one large pack, this is actually a safer form of racing and rewards the driver, car and team with the best package.
One lap before the 100-mile mark, however, contenders
Busch and Allmendinger are in front of 2007 winner
Ten laps earlier, Harvick was the leader ahead of Busch in what has so far been a fairly clean race, with the exception of a crash on Lap 8 that knocked out
Rookie Penske driver
Hornish's Dodge was taken to the garage to attempt to repair the damage. Also in the garage were Smith's Chevrolet and Keselowski's Dodge.
The race remained under caution on Lap 10 with pole winner
The green flag waved on Lap 13 with Martin trying to drag race Earnhardt into the first turn. Martin pulled ahead out of Turn 2 before Montoya was credited with leading that lap. He wasn't there long as Earnhardt took the lead going into Turn 1 on Lap 14.
Now that the
The premier NASCAR Sprint Cup race is underway under bright sunshine but cool and crisp conditions. But while the near-capacity crowd at Daytona International Speedway needs to bundle up to stay warm, the action on the race track will be hot in the earliest starting Daytona 500 since 2003.
The return to a traditional 1 p.m. starts means the race will begin and end in daylight which means track conditions will stay consistent but may be slick under the bright sun.
There are many storylines heading into the race.
And was Saturday's victory in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race
"Man, considering the fact that I'm probably not going to run the Indy 500 ever again, this is now the top priority and agenda," Stewart said. "You know, like I said, it's cool when you win 15 times here in so many different things, but you come down here for one main goal, and that's to win on Sunday here. That's what everybody's shooting for.
"I don't want it to take away from what we did today. Like I said, winning at Daytona, period, is special. But, you know, every time we win here, it just makes me that much hungrier to win on Sunday now."
All of those questions -- and more -- will be answered in a little over three hours and 500 miles of action. And SI.com is the place to be to get the latest from the 52nd Daytona 500.