2006 Daytona 500
|Race 1 of 36 in the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season|
Daytona International Speedway
|Date||February 19, 2006|
|Location||Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida|
|Course||Permanent racing facility
2.5 mi (4.02336 km)
|Distance||203 laps, 507.5 mi (816.742 km)|
|Scheduled Distance||200 laps, 500 mi (804.672 km)|
|Weather||Temperatures reaching up to 71.6 °F (22.0 °C); wind speeds approaching 14 miles per hour (23 km/h)|
|Average speed||142.734 miles per hour (229.708 km/h)|
|Driver||Jeff Burton||Richard Childress Racing|
|Qualifying race winners|
|Duel 1 Winner||Elliott Sadler||Robert Yates Racing|
|Duel 2 Winner||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.|
|Television in the United States|
|Announcers||Bill Weber, Benny Parsons, and Wally Dallenbach Jr.|
(19.4 million viewers)
The 2006 Daytona 500, the 48th running of the event, was the first race in the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup season. It took place on February 19, 2006 at Daytona International Speedway. Jimmie Johnson won the race in a green-white-checker finish. It was the second Daytona 500 in a row to go longer than 500 miles; this race, like the previous Daytona 500, had a total distance of 507.5 miles, or 203 laps. It was also the first Daytona 500 to end after dark, ending even later than the 2005 race, in which the checkered flag had waved just a few moments after sunset.
Johnson's car failed pre-race inspection and as a result his crew chief, Chad Knaus was suspended for the first 4 races and the team was fined $200,000. As a result Darian Grubb replaced him as crew chief. Knaus was not blocked, however, from contacting the team and by many accounts still had significant input. Johnson would go on to win his first championship that year.
Qualifying and Gatorade Duels
Jeff Burton won the pole for the race with a speed of over 189 mph, and would start alongside Jeff Gordon in an all-Chevy front row. Gordon would win the second Gatorade Duel (his third career victory in a Daytona qualifying race) after Elliott Sadler won in race 1, which was delayed by showers.
The weather dawned cloudy and cold for the 48th running of "The Great American Race", as Jeff Burton led the field to the green at 2:45 p.m., which at the time was the latest scheduled start in the history of the race. (The reason for this was that NBC chose it as its lead-in program to the primetime portion of its day's coverage of the Winter Olympic Games from Turin.) There were several lead changes in the early portion going en route to a race record of 32. Tony Stewart was a magnet for controversy, tangling with Jeff Gordon on lap 48 and Matt Kenseth on lap 106. Stewart was penalized for aggressive driving after the Kenseth incident, in which he blocked the 17 car down into the grass on the backstretch, which led to a Kenseth spin. Kenseth took matters into his own hands and was black flagged for hitting Stewart's car in retaliation on pit road. All three drivers involved in the incidents would repair their cars and get back into contention. Carl Edwards, a popular dark horse candidate for the Nextel Cup title, had his race end early when he was collected in a five-car incident on lap 80 that included Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty and two other cars. It was the biggest crash of the day, as the "Big One" never happened. Edwards finished 43rd.
Jimmie Johnson had one of the strongest cars all day. He took the lead with 10 laps to go just as the caution flag came out for an incident between Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray. It set up a 10-lap battle for the win, which was extended into "overtime" when McMurray and Jeff Burton collided on lap 197. The green-white-checker finish ended as Casey Mears and Ryan Newman battled for second, leaving Johnson to take the victory. The race ended under caution just before Johnson crossed the line after Greg Biffle crashed in the final turn. The 48th Daytona 500 was the first win for the 48 car on a restrictor plate track, his 19th career victory and the first win on his streak of five straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships from 2006 until 2010.
One surprise of the race was Kirk Shelmerdine, who finished 20th. He had barely qualified for the race and his independently-owned #27 was fielded with a car that had a borrowed engine and donated tires, and a team with a volunteer pit crew.
- (R) - Denotes driver making their first attempt at the Daytona 500
- (W) - Denotes former Daytona 500 winner