Montoya had no control, and the #42 smacked right into the back of the vehicle, which was fitted with a jet engine used to dry off the track. Jet engines need jet fuel, and Montoya's impact ripped open the 200-gallon (757 litres) tank on the vehicle and the fuel erupted into a fireball. Both Montoya and the driver of the jet dryer escaped without serious injuries but both were rather stunned and shaken by the incident.
"I've hit a lot of things - but a jet dryer?!" was Montoya's own stunned take on the accident and his lucky escape. [See separate story for more details
, and video of Montoya's crash
"I have never seen anything like that in my career and I am willing to bet that no one else has either," was Regan Smith's view of the inferno. "It was spectacular, no question about that. The lengthy red flag knocked the wind out of our sails, but recently you've come to expect the unexpected at the Daytona 500."
The fire was so intense - the fuel running down the steep banking and catching fire to produce a spectacular wall of flame right across the track - and took such a long time to get under control that it looked for a time that the race might have to be called there and then. In the meantime the cars were parked out on the backstretch
"I will be shocked - shocked! - if we can get this race restarted," was the view of Earnhardt's crew chief Steve Letarte, which would have been music to Dave Blaney's ears. Could he be about to win the Daytona 500 by default? No wonder he didn't want to climb out of the car while the hiatus stretched on. A few spots of rain in the air only heightened the drama.
It took two hours, five minutes and 29 seconds and a boat load of laundry detergent to clean up the fuel spill, but finally - just as the clocks hit midnight - Letarte was proved wrong and the car engines sprang to life for the final 40 laps of the race.
"There's going to be a big speed bump heading into Turn 3," Letarte warned his driver as the cars started to circulate once more.
The four cars at the front - Blaney, Cassill, Raines and Gilliland - all now had to dive into pit road after all, surrendering the lead to Kenseth, Biffle, Dale Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton. Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch also ended up at the back for the restart, after being penalised for having deigned to remove a plastic tear-off from their windscreens during the red flag period that prohibits any sort of work on the cars.
“I asked PK [Pierre Kuettel, Edwards' car chief] if we could pull the tear off and he said yes, and as soon as he pulled it the NASCAR official started
saying a lot of things," said Edwards later.
Kenseth and Biffle led for ten laps of green flag running, and then the race was back to yellow on lap 176 for an accident started by Aric Almirola getting into the back of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and spinning him on the frontstretch. Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears spun on the grass trying to avoid the incident but kept away from the wall and were able to continue - although Mears had further technical problems to deal with.