Harvick Wins Wild Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - There won't be much more talk about the cheating scandal at Daytona this week.

Not after Sunday's wild finish that saw Kevin Harvick win one of the craziest Daytona 500s in history.

With a multi-car crash taking place behind the leaders, Harvick passed Mark Martin on the final lap of a green-white-checkered finish to win his first career Daytona 500.

"My go-kart experience over the winter paid off, because I didn't let off the floor and we just kept hitting things and the wall and bouncing off everything," Harvick said. "But man, this is the Daytona 500. Can you believe it?"

Harvick seemed mired back in the pack but was able to work his way up toward the front and was in the top five when NASCAR threw the red flag after the final caution of the day for a multi car accident.

On the overtime restart, it was Martin leading the field with his former Roush Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth behind. But the veteran kept his Ginn Racing U.S. Army Chevy in front and looked headed to his first career Daytona 500 win.

Until the wild dash off turn four on the final lap which saw Harvick somehow shoot around to the outside and nip Martin at the line.

"I can't believe it," Harvick said. "We were thirty-something there with 15 laps to go. We came up through there. I have to thank (car owner) Richard (Childress) and "crew chief) Todd Berrier for an awesome racecar."

Jeff Burton, Mike Wallace and David Ragan rounded out the top five.

Elliott Sadler, Kasey Kahne, David Gilliland, Joe Nemechek and David Stremme completed the first ten finishers.

While the first half of the race featured only two cautions for relatively minor incidents, the second half was much wilder.

The fireworks began with 47 laps to go when Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch touched while running first and second.

Stewart's Home Depot Chevrolet seemed to bobble just a bit as the field raced through turn three and four causing Busch to get into his rear bumper.

The impact sent Stewart hard into the wall and Busch into the infield with heavy damage.

“I mishandled in the corner and it took off on me,” Stewart said. “I don’t know what happened. Impressive to go from the back to the front. I was really happy with the Monte Carlo, it was awesome today.”

Busch flat out apologized for causing the incident.

I bumped the 20 car and we were both taken out the Daytona 500 off my mistake," Busch said. "I apologize to the 20 car. I know it doesn't help any. He's been a good friend at the restrictor plate races."

Stewart was running in the front of the field early in the race but a pit road mishap in front of his pit box between Robby Gordon and David Gilliland forced him to come back down pit road on lap 90, and he was penalized by NASCAR for speeding.

That sent him to the back of the field, but he was able to work his way back to the front in 80 laps.

“We fought back, we were kind of in a bad position, “ Stewart said, who wound up 41st in Sunday’s final rundown. “It’s so hard to drive back there in the bad air, but the guys never got worked up, I never got worked up and got to the front.”

Defending race winner and NEXTEL Cup champion was caught up in the day's fourth caution with 27 laps to go when he brushed the wall and then swept up in a multi-car accident with David Reutimann, Tony Raines, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Green.

"It was certainly disappointing to lose control of the car like that and then getting caught up in that wreck and cause that big pile up," Johnson said. "A disappointing day. This was a hard hit, but everything did its job inside the car and I'm fine."

The day's final caution took out another contender, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who was swept up in a chain reaction crash with Martin Truex, Jr., Jamie McMurray and Ricky Rudd.

"I was behind the 88 and couldn't see what caused the wreck, but I had nowhere to go," Earnhardt, Jr. said. "I couldn't see what was happening in front of me because I was tucked in behind the No. 88."

The NEXTEL Cup Series now heads to California Speedway next Sunday afternoon.

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