Sunday, February 18, 2007

Kevin Harvick Edges Mark Martin To Win 49th Daytona 500

Daytona folklore will have a new chapter to add following the 2007 Daytona 500 as Kevin Harvick drives to the outside of everyone and breaks Mark Martin's heart once again as he drove to the win at Daytona. 

The two drivers that should have been battling for the win - Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch - crashed out in the second half of the race.  That left the battle for win open for anyone, perhaps Kyle Busch, perhaps Mark Martin, or someone else waiting to show what they had.

Mark Martin took the lead following the final pit stop of the day and appeared to have enough help and enough car to hold on for the win.  A steady stream of accidents would bring out cautions, taking out defending winner Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Martin Truex Jr.

With four laps to go, the race was red flagged for the last caution of the day as the competitors got to think about what they wanted to do to try and win.  For Mark Martin, it was time to think about what it would mean to win this race in his 23rd try.  For Kyle Busch, he had a chance to become of, if not the youngest winners in Daytona 500 history.  For everyone on back, it was time to think about what they could possibly do to move through the field for the win.

Kevin Harvick immediately jumped to the outside of the field from 7th place and received huge boosts from Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton.  Still, it appeared the winner would be Mark Martin or Kyle Busch.  Busch didn't have the car to make a move, though he sufficiently slowed the front cars down and allowed Harvick's line to advance up the outside.  Going into turn 3, Harvick and the momentum.  Busch tried to block, but it was no use.  Martin got loose and Harvick slid to the front.  Coming through the turns, Martin edged back out front... when all hell broke loose.

Busch slid into Matt Kenseth, who both came down and massacred the rest of the field.  In front, though, Harvick and Martin battled side-by-side, door-to-door all the way to the finish line.

Harvick wins by a nose.

Behind them, no fewer than 11 cars sustained damage, some more badly than others.  An image we'll see for years to come is the sight of Clint Bowyer in his #07 sliding on his roof, on fire, across the start/finish line. 

What a race.

My thoughts:

>>> Mark Martin's luck follows him to Ginn Racing and the #01.  To ensure the most heartbreak possible, he held the lead for three-fourths of the last lap before losing the lead and his help and falling just short.  It just wasn't meant to be for him.

>>> Raise your hand if you knew Kyle Busch was going to be involved in the big crash.  He has already learned a lot, but still has a long ways to go before he can really be considered a threat to win - not a threat to tear your car up.

>>> Look at the top 5 finishers in this race: Harvick, Martin, Burton, Wallace?, Ragan?  Every year someone you never, never, never expected to finish in the top 5 always does.

>>> I'm going to jump out in front of everyone and say that I agree with the decision not to throw the caution at the end.  It would have been a nightmare trying to analyze where everyone finished and it wasn't certain if Harvick or Martin would have been considered the leader.  Let them battle it to the line and see who wins.  Imagine the controversy if NASCAR would have threw the caution there. 

>>> I really thought it was Tony Stewart's destiny to win the Daytona 500.  The comparisons to Dale Earnhardt growing between those two.

>>> On the anniversary of the death of Dale Earnhardt, someone with an intimate connection wins it again. 

Full results of the 49th Daytona 500.

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