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Second Daytona 500 perfect start for Johnson

Patrick easily passed Waltrip for the lead at the restart on lap 89, becoming the first female driver in history to lead a lap of the Daytona 500 in the process - quite a moment, even if first Hamlin and then his Joe Gibbs Gracing team mate Kenseth took the lead back from Patrick two laps later. At the halfway mark on lap 100, the trio continued to lead ahead of Bowyer, Johnson and Waltrip.

The race continued uninterrupted to the next round of green flag pit stops starting on lap 126, after which Kenseth and Hamlin resumed in the lead ahead of Bowyer. Kyle Busch had recovered from his earlier mishaps to resume in fourth ahead of Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr. making it an all-Toyota top six, while a couple of close calls on pit road had seen Danica Patrick exit in ninth place behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle.

2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne brought out a new caution on lap 138 when he got into the back of Brad Keselowski's car in turn 1: the reigning champion was able to save his car and survive the encounter, but Bayne spun as a result and took out Carl Edwards in the process. Josh Wise, David Ragan, Austin Dillon, David Gilliland and Terry Labonte were also affected.

Racing resumed on lap 146, but there was bad news for race leader Matt Kenseth as his engine timed its blow-up to perfection and ended his hopes of back-to-back Daytona 500 victories. In what appeared to be a synchronised JGR team move, Kyle Busch's own engine also seized on him just minutes later. That left the last member of the team - Denny Hamlin - in the lead, but understandably nervous of the #11's durability and wary of pushing his own car too hard to the point of destruction during the remainder of the race.

Neither JGR retirement had triggered a caution, so the final round of pit stops took place under green starting on lap 173. The cycle was not quite complete when first Martin Truex Jr. became the latest Toyota to fail, and then Jeff Burton had a cut tyre that stuffed the Richard Childress Racing #31 into a hard impact with the wall on the frontstretch on lap 177. That brought out a caution at the moment that former F1 driver Scott Speed temporarily held the lead of the Daytona 500 pending his own visit to pit road.

Once Speed did make his final stop, it turned out that the driver most assisted by the timing of the caution was the late-pitting Brad Keselowski, who took the lead for the restart on lap 181 ahead of Johnson, Ambrose, Biffle and Hamlin; Patrick, Bowyer, Gordon, Ryan Newman and Mark Martin made up the rest of the top ten with less than 20 laps to run.

Even with Biffle's help, Keselowski - still nursing damage to his car from the early accident on lap 33 - wasn't able to hold off Johnson, who had just pushed into the lead on lap 191 when the two of them ran over debris in turn 2, triggering a new caution that set up a final six lap shootout

"Things just worked out well for me coming to the caution," admitted Johnson. "The #2 [Keselowski] got a big push and was way out and kind of falling back to the #16 [Biffle]. My lane was bunched up tight and helped me surge by the #2 at the start/finish when the caution came out. That was really the move that set things up for us."

The green came out again on lap 195 with Johnson and Biffle at the front, and Patrick initially backed by with Earnhardt to push past Keselowski and Martin. But in truth, once in front Jimmie Johnson always had the lead firmly under his control, as he was quick to admit. "Honestly once I had control of the race, I knew I was sitting on a lot of speed with this car. It was so fast.

"At the end it got exciting," he continued. "I was waiting for the run and it came further back than I expected. The #88 [Earnhardt] got a big shove and was coming up the inside. I moved down to defend that and we were able to get a one-two for Hendrick Motorsports."




Related Pictures

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Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, leads Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, and the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald`s Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Ray Lewis waves the American Ethanol green flag as Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, lead the field to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)
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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 24, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, holds his daughter, Lydia Sunday, November 22, 2015 before final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Johnson and other Jeff Gordon teammates at Hendrick Motorsports wore tribute hats to honor the retiring Chevy driver prior to the start of the race. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to a sixth place finish Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Gordon finishes third in the Chase for the Cup Championship. This was Gordon`s last race as a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. He has made 796 consecutive Cup Series starts, earned 93 wins, and 81 poles - all behind the wheel of Chevrolets. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, races to a second place finish, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place, and Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision finishes in twelfth place Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the final race of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. This Chevrolet drivers finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th (respectively) in the Chase of the Cup Championship. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
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Series championship contenders Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Former racing driver Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton pose during pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
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Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
A general view as cars pit during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 AXALTA Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, celebrates winning the series championship and the race with a burnout after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 22, 2015 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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