Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger finished 34th in Monday’s weather-delayed Daytona 500 here at Daytona International Speedway. Starting 15th, Dinger never had the opportunity to show his car’s strength after an unusual incident on pit road sent him to the garage area for repairs early in the race. He returned to the track running in the 38th position and rode it out to finish 34th.
The 54th Annual Daytona 500 will go down in the record books as one of the most bizarre races in the history of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. This year’s edition of stock car racing’s “Super Bowl” was the first-ever rescheduled Daytona 500. Actually, it was rescheduled twice – from Sunday till Monday at 12:00 noon and then till Monday at 7:00 p.m.
When the race finally did get started, it took five hours and 41 minutes to complete, with the checkered flag coming out at 12:56 a.m. on Tuesday. The race was delayed for a little over two hours after Juan Pablo Montoya had mechanical issues that sent him spinning into a jet dryer in the Turn 3 area of the track with 40 laps remaining. The impact caused a huge explosion and fire that had to be extinguished and cleaned up. Fortunately, Montoya and all the track safety workers escaped without serious injury.
As for Allmendinger, he hit pit road under the second caution period on Lap 15 expecting to do just a fuel-only pit stop. Ryan Newman had brought out the yellow when he spun heading onto the backstretch. Newman had hit pit road for service. Dinger was on pit road and heading for his pits when Newman merged in front, lost a left-front tire and came to an abrupt halt. Dinger had no place to go and slammed into the rear of Newman’s car.
By the time the No. 22 Dodge made it to the pit box, fluid was spewing from underneath. The crew lifted the hood and deduced that the radiator had been broken. They immediately pushed their car back to the garage area and began making repairs. By the time they changed radiators and replaced most of the ducting, Dinger was 25 laps down. He returned to the track on Lap 39 and the team just had to make the best out of a dismal situation.
“A tire fell off a car that was struggling in front of us on pit road, he stopped – and I ran into him,” a disappointed Dinger said. “Our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger ran well and it was fast, but we have a 34th-place finish to show for it. It (stinks) because the guys did a good job. It was a just a frustrating night for us, but we’ll bounce back strong at Phoenix.”
The race was slowed by 10 cautions for 42 laps. Only 22 cars completed all 202 laps here today. Three cautions during the final 19 laps eliminated several top competitors, including Allmendinger’s Penske Racing teammate, Brad Keselowski.
In the green-white-checkered finish, Matt Kenseth got a great restart and went on to take his second career Daytona 500 win when teammate Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. couldn’t muster enough strength to get by in the tri-oval. Kenseth emerged as a 0.210-second winner over Earnhardt, with Biffle finishing third, Denny Hamlin fourth and Jeff Burton fifth. Paul Menard, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Mark Martin rounded out the top-10 finishers.
The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now heads to Phoenix International Raceway for next weekend’s Subway Fresh Fit 500. The action at PIR kicks off on Friday with practice sessions set from 12:30 p.m. till 2:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. till 5:00 p.m. Saturday’s single round of qualifying at 12:35 p.m. will set the entire 43-car starting field. Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 (500 kilometers/312 laps) has a 1:00 p.m. local (3:00 p.m. ET) start and features live coverage by FOX-TV, MRN Radio and Sirius/XM NASCAR Channel 90.