Matt Kenseth wins bizarre Daytona 500

First came the rain, then the fire - bringing chaos to the delayed 54th running of the Daytona 500.

First steady rain delayed the field for 24 hours and then with 40 laps left to run, as Dave Blaney was leading, a problem with Juan Pablo Montoya's car sent him spinning under caution into a safety truck which holds 200 gallons of jet kerosene, and the fuel ignited . Jet fuel poured down the surface of Turn 3, the race was red-flagged while workers tried to put out the rush of flames taking over 2 hours.

Matt Kenseth won his second Daytona 500 when the tandem of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle couldn't catch the race winner in a green-white-checkered finish. ' I have to thank Greg. We worked together really good all day long. He had a really fast car all day as well.'

Earnhardt hooked up with Biffle and pushed the No. 16 Ford after a restart on Lap 201, but the pair could not make headway against Kenseth who moved to the front of the field and stayed there.

Earnhardt expected Biffle to pull out and make a move, but the move never came.

"I was waiting and waiting," Earnhardt said. "It looked like he might have been trying to make a move on the back straightaway, but nothing materialized there. Then we came off [Turn] 4, and I kind of waited till the last minute for him to have his opportunity to try to pass Matt, and nothing was happening, so I just pulled out and went around him."

Kenseth had plenty of power at the finish, despite problems with the cooling system that plagued him early in the race.

"We had a lot of problems -- it was spewing water," said Kenseth, who notched the 22nd Cup victory of his career. "I have to give a lot of credit to [engine builder] Doug Yates and the guys at the engine shop. We had great horsepower.

"I could get a pretty good start on the bottom and either Denny or Dale Jr. could push me for a while and then they just couldn't stay attached and I would get away from them just in time to get in front of Greg, and the two of us together could make some unbelievable speed. I have to thank Greg. We worked together really good all day long. He had a really fast car all day as well."

A multicar wreck on Lap 188 thinned the herd considerably, taking out a handful of competitive cars. Jamie McMurray spun wildly near the entrance to Turn 1, and the chain-reaction collision wiped out the cars of Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne and Aric Almirola and damaged the machines of Edwards and Tony Stewart.

Another melee on Lap 196 set up the overtime. After contact from Joey Logano's Toyota, the Ford of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. caromed into Stewart's Chevrolet, turning the defending Cup champion sideways and igniting a pinball-style wreck that also involved Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman.

A strange weekend that saw the first weather postponement in the history of the Daytona 500 got downright bizarre during a round of pit stops under caution late in the race.

Juan Montoya brought his No. 42 Chevrolet to pit road under caution on Lap 160, complaining of transmission issues. His car fell victim to a strong vibration when he returned to the track, and Montoya slid out of control at the entrance to Turn 3 and slammed into a jet dryer, which was against the outside wall, blowing the track.

 The collision ignited the jet fuel in the dryer and set both vehicles ablaze. Montoya and the driver of the service vehicle both escaped the wreckage, but the latter -- Duane Barnes, from Michigan International Speedway -- was taken to nearby Halifax Medical Center for further evaluation.

"Something failed in the rear of the car, and the car just spun into the jet dryer," Montoya said after a visit to the care center. "I left the pits and felt a really weird vibration, and I came back in and checked the rear end and [they] said it was OK, and I got into the backstraight and we were going in fourth gear but wasn't going that fast.

"There's going to be a big speed bump heading into Turn 3," crew chief Steve Letarte told Dale Earnhardt Jr., fearful that the blaze would melt the asphalt. "I will be shocked -- shocked -- if we can get this race restarted." Letarte was wrong.

Safety workers cleared the scene by hoisting the remains of the jet dryer on a tow truck with a boom to prevent further damage to the asphalt.

The race was barely one lap old when contact from the front bumper of Elliott Sadler's Chevrolet turned the No. 48 Chevy of five-time champion Jimmie Johnson hard into the outside wall near the exit from the tri-oval.

Unable to avoid the wreck, David Ragan plowed into the side of Johnson's car. Neither Johnson nor Ragan was able to continue; they retired from the race in the 42nd and 43rd positions, respectively.

The cars of defending race winner Trevor Bayne, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch were severely damaged in the melee and all three headed to the garage for extensive repairs and later returned to the track.

"The steering's off," Patrick said, as she brought the No. 10 Chevy to pit road. Her crew repaired the rear suspension, but Patrick was 62 laps down when she reappeared on Lap 66. She wound up 38th in her Sprint Cup debut.

Martin Truex Jr. won the $200,000 bonus for leading the race at the halfway point.

The top four drivers when Juan Montoya hit the jet dryer were Dave Blaney, Landon Cassill, Tony Raines and David Gilliland, none of whom had come to pit road with the rest of the lead-lap cars. Irreparable damage to the track or an ill-timed rain cell could have made a winner of Blaney.

Edwards and Kyle Busch had to restart from the rear when the race resumed for removing tear-offs from their windshields under the red flag.

Montoya, who said his helmet was singed in the fire and his foot ached, said he felt a vibration in his car before the accident.

"I've hit a lot of things — but a jet dryer?" he said. "It just felt really strange, and as I was talking on the radio, the car just turned right."

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS

1 4 17 Matt Kenseth  Ford Best Buy  47/1 202 Running 2 5 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Chevrolet Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard  42/0 202 Running 3 2 16 Greg Biffle  Ford 3M 42/1 202 Running 4 31 11 Denny Hamlin  Toyota FedEx Express  42/2 202 Running 5 9 31 Jeff Burton  Chevrolet Caterpillar 40/1 202 Running 6 37 27 Paul Menard  Chevrolet Peak / Menards  39/1 202 Running 7 13 29 Kevin Harvick  Chevrolet Budweiser 37/0 202 Running 8 1 99 Carl Edwards  Ford Fastenal 36/0 202 Running 9 12 20 Joey Logano  Toyota The Home Depot  36/1 202 Running 10 22 55 Mark Martin  Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine  35/1 202 Running 11 30 15 Clint Bowyer  Toyota 5-hour Energy  33/0 202 Running 12 26 56 Martin Truex Jr.  Toyota NAPA Auto Parts  33/1 202 Running 13 7 9 Marcos Ambrose  Ford Stanley 31/0 202 Running 14 32 47 Bobby Labonte  Toyota Kroger 30/0 202 Running 15 24 36 Dave Blaney  Chevrolet Ollie's Bargain Outlet  30/1 202 Running 16 3 14 Tony Stewart  Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1  29/1 202 Running 17 14 18 Kyle Busch  Toyota M&M's Brown  27/0 202 Running 18 43 32 Terry Labonte  Ford C&J Energy  27/1 202 Running 19 41 26 Tony Raines  Ford Front Row Motorsports  25/0 202 Running 20 21 6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ford Ford EcoBoost  0 202 Running 21 18 39 Ryan Newman  Chevrolet U.S. Army / Quicken Loans  23/0 202 Running 22 39 83 Landon Cassill  Toyota Burger King  22/0 202 Running 23 33 38 David Gilliland  Ford MHP Power Pak Pudding  21/0 201 Running 24 6 78 Regan Smith  Chevrolet Furniture Row / CSX "Play it Safe"  21/1 200 Running 25 36 13 Casey Mears  Ford GEICO 19/0 199 Running 26 38 93 David Reutimann  Toyota Burger King  18/0 196 Accident 27 10 33 Elliott Sadler  Chevrolet General Mills / Kroger  0 196 Running 28 34 87 Joe Nemechek  Toyota AMFMEnergy.com / Pellet & Wood Stoves 0 194 Running 29 20 5 Kasey Kahne  Chevrolet Farmers Insurance  15/0 189 Accident 30 11 98 Michael McDowell  Ford K-Love / Curb Records  14/0 189 Running 31 19 1 Jamie McMurray  Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats  13/0 188 Accident 32 23 2 Brad Keselowski  Dodge Miller Lite  12/0 187 Accident 33 27 43 Aric Almirola  Ford Smithfield "Helping Hungry Homes"  11/0 187 Accident 34 15 22 A.J. Allmendinger  Dodge Shell / Pennzoil  10/0 177 Running 35 40 21 Trevor Bayne  Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center  0 164 Running 36 35 42 Juan Montoya  Chevrolet Target 8/0 159 Accident 37 42 30 David Stremme  Toyota Inception Motorsports  7/0 156 Engine 38 29 10 Danica Patrick  Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 0 138 Running 39 28 51 Kurt Busch  Chevrolet HendrickCars.com 5/0 113 Running 40 16 24 Jeff Gordon  Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger  5/1 81 Engine 41 17 7 Robby Gordon  Dodge Mapei / Menards / Speed Energy  3/0 25 Engine 42 8 48 Jimmie Johnson  Chevrolet Lowe's 2/0 1 Accident 43 25 34 David Ragan  Ford Scorpion Truck Bed Liners  1/0 1 Accident