"Something with the new fuel injection pump system went wrong, we don't know enough about it to really understand exactly what happened," said Mears, who had been looking to hook up with Matt Kenseth to draft for the remainder of the race. "This is more heartbreaking than almost missing the show like last year because we had such a good race car. We were in very good position."
Kenseth and Biffle were still at the front for the restart on lap 182, but five laps later another multi-car accident broke out on the frontstretch. Jamie McMurray had been very squirrely off the turn and was finally sent into a spin after a hit from Joey Logano. McMurray then took a hard hit from Brad Keselowski who was then crunching into the wall, and a chain-reaction ensued from the chasing pack that caught up Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Regan Smith and Aric Almirola among others.
"When you're in the middle of the pack at the closing stages of a restrictor-plate race, you're asking for trouble," shrugged a resigned Smith. "We were in the danger zone and sure enough we got caught up in someone else's mess. I knew we were in a bad position."
Tony Stewart was one of the more fortunate drivers, sneaking through the accident without incurring race-ending damage. But his luck ran out almost immediately after the restart, when Joey Logano made contact with Ricky Stenhouse who spun into the side of Stewart. That turned the #14 sideways and the inevitable pack racing Big One ensued catching out multiple cars including Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman.
With that incident occurring on lap 196 it meant that the race was pushed beyond its scheduled 200-lap race distance and into green-white-chequered conditions. Kenseth and Biffle were still in the lead for the final two-lap shootout with Earnhardt behind them waiting for Biffle to make a play for the race lead through the final corners.
"I was waiting and waiting," said Earnhardt about Biffle. "It looked like he might have been trying to make a move on the back straightaway, but nothing materialised.
"Then we came off four, 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," he continued. Earnhardt's slingshot move shot him past Biffle and into second place at the line.
"On the backstretch I moved up a little bit, and Matt is not stupid; we had no run at him. We were all going the same speed," said Biffle, explaining why he hadn't been able to make any move on Kenseth. "So when I moved over, Matt just moved over real easy, and Junior is against my back bumper, so I'm trying not to wreck because he's shoving on me and I'm doing this down the back, and I'm like, 'I'm not going to be able to get a run at him.'"
While Earnhardt and Biffle battled over second, Kenseth had leapt away in front and had enough of an edge to stay there and take the chequered flag.
"I wasn't expecting to win when I woke up this morning so it feels good to be sitting here," said Kenseth afterwards, celebrating his second Daytona 500 victory and his 22nd race win in Sprint Cup competition in 437 starts. "We had a really fast car all day and overcame a lot of adversity and problems with the car that we figured out.