Joey Logano emerged in third place when the final caution flag came out signalling the end of the race, after the #20 hooked up with Kasey Kahne running in fourth place; the Kyle Busch/Jeff Gordon scratch pairing had squeaked through the last two wrecks to claim fifth and sixth after restarting at the back of the top 30, while Harvick and Menard had managed to hold on to seventh and eighth.
"I'm just amazed that we were able to come back to sixth," said Gordon. "We were what, 30th, 31st on that second-to-last restart?"
Among those caught up in the chaos on the penultimate lap - which had involved 15 cars in two separate incidents - were Newman and Hamlin. Jamie McMurray had made contact with Earnhardt Jr. and ended up hitting his Earnhardt Ganassi team mate Juan Montoya, also catching up AJ Allmendinger, Jeff Burton and Jimmie Johnson in the wreck. The #42 was just about able to stagger to the finish line in ninth with Allmendinger following in tenth.
Earnhardt claimed that McMurray "just drove into the side of me and turned me onto the apron," adding: "I had it saved, and then he came on and got him another shot ... Brought the KO punch the second time and spun us around." Earnhardt's cause hadn't been helped by being separated from his drafting partner Jimmie Johnson in the pits: "I'm driving my car, do what I'm told," a heated Earnhardt said. "They decided to do something different. I can't run the whole damn thing from the seat of the damn race car."
Junior Nation fans were blaming the #48 for abandoning their idol. "I didn't leave Jr hanging, you people are crazy," Johnson responded on Twitter. "When my crew tells me to pit, I pit. Steve [Letarte, Earnhardt's crew chief] and Chad Knaus, Johnson's crew chief] sort out the details."
But really, Earnhardt was incandescent about the whole draft-style racing and the need for pairing up in the first place, and made his feelings well and truly known: "You guys need to get your own frickin' opinions and write what y'all think about it," he said. "Because I think they're pretty damn close to mine. So stop putting my damn foot in my mouth with y'all and getting my ass in trouble. Y'all write what y'all think, man. C'mon. Y'all are good. Y'all got an opinion about it; I read y'all's shit."
The other incident that occurred on that final lap was at the back of the pack starting with Marcos Ambrose and Landon Cassill making contact and then catching out David Reutimann, Brian Vickers and Tony Stewart, who commented: "That last wreck we were caught about eight back behind where it all started trying to dodge all the guys that got wrecked."
But as the dust settled from the final lap carnage, the day belonged emphatically to first time winner David Ragan who was clearly in seventh heaven:
"There's no better place to win your first race than Daytona, it couldn't be any better ... There's not a better night to win. This is awesome!" he said. "I probably won't go to sleep tonight. I'm going to get back and watch some of the race - and just stare at that trophy, maybe, for a little while."
Quite right, too.
Full times and positions available