David Ragan claimed his maiden NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in a close and wild finish on Saturday night at Daytona.
The Roush Fenway racer was hooked up all race long with his team-mate Matt Kenseth, who pushed him for most of the race in their two-car tandem as the technique prevailed once again on the new smoother surface of the 2.5-mile oval.
Ragan led the field on the second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish after contact between Joey Logano and Mark Martin ignited a multi-car accident involving at least 11 cars, causing the fifth and final caution of the night.
As the green flag waved for the last time Ragan and Kenseth were quick to gain momentum, with Logano pushed by Red Bull's Kasey Kahne looking to be their main challengers. However the Ford duo were unstoppable in the end as others lost momentum and chaos unfolded behind them in two separate incidents that involved at least 15 cars between them after the white flag was displayed.
Ragan's first victory gave Ford's Roush-Yates engines a Daytona sweep this year, following Trevor Bayne's victory in the season-opener, where Ragan's team-mate Carl Edwards finished second. It was also revenge for Ragan, who back in February got penalized for jumping the penultimate restart while trying to quickly pair up with Bayne at the front of the field in the decisive stages of the race.
"There's no better place to win your first race than Daytona, it couldn't be any better," said Ragan after his maiden Cup victory was achieved at the 163rd attempt. "We've been so close so many times and finally we're here. Daytona means a lot. It is a special race and we're very fortunate that first win here.
"Matt pushed me to the finish line. The Roush Yates horsepower was great. There's not a better night to win. This is awesome."
Daytona 500 winner Bayne and former points leader Edwards were among the first to be out of contention for victory, Bayne getting turned around while trying to draft with Penske's Brad Keselowski as soon as lap four and eventually retiring with massive front-end damage, while Edwards spun and crashed backwards against the inside wall on lap 23 as a result of contact with his team-mate Greg Biffle, who was committed to pushing him all race long as Kenseth was with Ragan.
Edwards' car was badly damaged in the incident and fumes from the exhaust caused extreme heat inside the #99 Ford. He finished the race several laps down as his team tried to repair damage in the pits and isolate the driver from the heat and the gases as much as they could. Edwards' 37th place finish has lost him the lead in the points, with Richard Childress Racing's Kevin Harvick moving up to first in the standings after finishing seventh.
Logano - who survived the carnage that unfolded from his contact with polesitter Martin - crossed the line third pushed by Kahne, while Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch was fifth ahead of Jeff Gordon, the Hendrick driver also surviving the spin that caused the penultimate caution three laps from the scheduled end when Kahne moved up on the banking ahead of him and made contact.
Juan Pablo Montoya finished ninth despite crossing the line against the wall after his Earnhardt Ganassi team-mate Jamie McMurray lost control and crashed into him following contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Colombian was one of 25 different race leaders and worked all night long with McMurray before the final sprint on the last lap.
Richard Petty's AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top 10, recovering from being a lap down after a delayed final stop. He got the free pass on the penultimate caution and made the most of the chaos on the final lap of the race to pick up positions at the flag.
Results - 170 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford 2h39m53.000s
2. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 0.059s
3. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 0.150s
4. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota + 0.208s
5. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 1.090s
6. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 1.276s
7. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 1.533s
8. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 1.634s
9. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 3.611s
10. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford + 5.096s
11. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet + 6.317s
12. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota + 6.465s
13. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota + 6.466s
14. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge + 9.419s
15. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 9.420s
16. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 11.347s
17. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 12.467s
18. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 13.843s
19. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 13.844s
20. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 17.109s
21. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 28.508s
22. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 29.140s
23. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet + 34.364s
24. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 39.819s
25. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota + 41.937s
26. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet + 1 lap
27. Andy Lally TRG Chevrolet + 1 lap
28. Terry Labonte FAS Lane Ford + 1 lap
29. Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford + 1 lap
30. Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota + 1 lap
31. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 2 laps
32. Casey Mears Germain Toyota + 6 laps
33. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet + 6 laps
34. Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge + 7 laps
Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota 162 laps
Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet 162 laps
Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 144 laps*
Geoff Bodine Baldwin Chevrolet 143 laps
Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 47 laps
Mike Skinner Germain Toyota 5 laps
Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford 4 laps
Michael McDowell HP Toyota 2 laps
Kevin Conway NEMCO Toyota 1 lap
* Running again at chequered flag