2007 Daytona 500
|Race 1 of 36 in the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season|
|Date||February 18, 2007|
|Location||Daytona International Speedway|
|Course||Permanent racing facility
2.5 mi (4.02336 km)
|Distance||202 laps, 505 mi (812.718 km)|
|Scheduled Distance||200 laps, 500 mi (804.672 km)|
|Average speed||149.333 miles per hour (240.328 km/h)|
|Driver||David Gilliland||Robert Yates Racing|
|Qualifying race winners|
|Duel 1 Winner||Tony Stewart||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|Duel 2 Winner||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Kurt Busch||Penske Racing|
||Richard Childress Racing|
|Television in the United States|
|Announcers||Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds|
(17.5 million viewers)
The 2007 Daytona 500, the 49th running of the event, was the first race of the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, taking place on February 18, 2007, at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Kevin Harvick won the race by .02 second over Mark Martin in the closest finish since the first race at Daytona International Speedway when it took three days to declare Lee Petty the winner in 1959. The race was decided by a green-white-checker finish for the third year in a row, with two extra laps added for a total of 505 miles, or 202 laps.
Tony Stewart, driving the Home Depot #20 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS for Joe Gibbs Racing, won the first Gatorade Duel race, while Jeff Gordon drove the Hendrick Motorsports DuPont Chevrolet to the checkered flag in the nightcap. However, widespread rules infractions that affected five teams – the #17 Roush Fenway Racing DeWalt Tools Ford Fusion team of Matt Kenseth, the three Evernham Motorsports Dodge Charger teams of Kasey Kahne (#9 UAW/Dodge), Scott Riggs (#10 Valvoline) and Elliott Sadler (#19 UAW/Dodge) – were discovered during the Pole Qualifying on February 11. But, a sixth team – the #55 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry from Michael Waltrip Racing driven by the teams' owner – suffered the most severe punishment handed out by the motorsports sanctioning body since 2000, as it was docked 100 driver and owner points, causing it to leave Daytona with negative owner and championship points (−27 points). In addition, Jeff Gordon was penalized with the loss of his starting position after the #24 DuPont Chevrolet failed a post-race inspection because of an improper spoiler height. His starting position was changed from fourth to 42nd. There were no other penalties assessed against himself or the team and he remained listed as the winner of the second duel race.
When all was said and done, Robert Yates Racing swept the top two positions, with David Gilliland driving the #38 M&Ms Ford Fusion to the pole at 186.320 mph (299.853 km/h), with his teammate, Ricky Rudd in the #88 Snickers Fusion alongside a mere 0.185 seconds behind.
Bill Elliott wasn't the only past Daytona 500 champion to miss the race, as 35 other cars attempted to battle for a set of seven spots in the starting grid. Ward Burton (who won in 2002) and Derrike Cope (the 1990 winner) did not qualify from their respective races.
Before the green flag the following drivers dropped to the rear of the field for the reasons indicated: #00 – David Reutimann (transmission change), #18 – J.J. Yeley (transmission change), #41 – Reed Sorenson (transmission change). #24 – Jeff Gordon (failed post race inspection after winning the Gatorade Duel race #2, Gordon was supposed to start 4th).
Kelly Clarkson, the first winner of American Idol and spokesperson for the 2007 edition of "NASCAR Day", performed in the pre-race "Salute to America" concert, with her set consisting of Since U Been Gone, One Minute (from her third studio album My December) and Miss Independent. Big and Rich sang the National Anthem, while Academy Award winning actor Nicolas Cage served as the grand marshal of the event, giving the command to have the drivers start their engines in a low-key manner. Baseball ironman and 2007 inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame Cal Ripken, Jr. drove the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 pace car for the pre-race laps, and Phil Parsons, the brother of Benny Parsons, who had died of complications from lung cancer prior to the season, was given the honor of dropping the green flag for the race.
David Gilliland was in the front of the field when the green flag waved. The first caution came on lap 18 when Boris Said moved up the track coming off of Turn 2, most likely unaware that David Reutimann was there, and spun. He had very minor damage and continued the race from there. The race then stayed under the green flag for about 60 laps, during which Tony Stewart took the lead from Kurt Busch. On lap 79, Kyle Petty hit the wall after rear tire blew, bringing out another yellow flag. He went behind the wall for repairs. David Reutimann obtained the free pass to return to the lead lap. Kurt Busch took the lead again during most of the next green flag period, only being passed by Ryan Newman for one lap on lap 128, and then by Tony Stewart again on lap 150.
On lap 152, Tony Stewart got on the apron in Turn 4, got loose, and spun into Kurt Busch. Stewart spun to a halt, while Kurt kept the engine going and went to the garage area for repairs. However, with 46 laps to go, he was unable to continue and did not finish the race. A fourth caution came on lap 175 when a 5-car crash involving David Reutimann, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Green, and Tony Raines occurred in the backstretch. Mark Martin took the lead shortly before the yellow flag came out. Another crash which took out Ken Schrader happened on lap 186. With 5 laps to go, Matt Kenseth ran into Jamie McMurray, who hit the wall and collected Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with him. Ricky Rudd and Martin Truex, Jr. were also collected. Rudd remained on the lead lap, but Truex fell a lap down. McMurray and Earnhardt, Jr. were done, finishing 31st and 32nd, respectively. The race was delayed for approximately 12 minutes for cleanup under the red flag. This set up a green-white-checkered finish.
With two laps to go, an outside line began to form, with Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, and Jeff Burton. Mark Martin came to the white flag looking for a victory. On the backstretch, second-place Kyle Busch tried both ways to get around Martin. At this time, Kenseth began bump-drafting Harvick, with Burton in tow. Harvick flew by David Stremme, David Gilliland, Mike Wallace, David Ragan, and Greg Biffle. On the last lap, Kyle Busch's shifting around, trying to get around Martin and block Harvick at the same, caused him to get loose. Harvick zipped past Busch. Harvick and Martin, Busch and Kenseth, and Biffle and Burton were side-by-side out of turn 4. Kyle Busch hit the apron, getting him loose. He spun out and starts a chain reaction collecting many cars. Clint Bowyer took the worst hit, turning over on his roof, skidding across the finish line on his roof while on fire before uprighting himself in the grass. Harvick beat Martin by .02 of a second to claim the victory. After being 6th place out of turn 4, Jeff Burton finished 3rd. Mike Wallace and David Ragan were surprises, rounding out the top-5.
Controversy over finish
Because of an incident between Casey Mears and Dale Jarrett at the 2003 Sylvania 300 in New Hampshire International Speedway, NASCAR has ordered the "freezing of the field" whenever a caution flag is thrown. Such a flag did not fly after the last-lap crash. There is some disputed visual evidence that suggests that, if the caution had flown strictly according to NASCAR rules, Martin may have won.
The issue was especially passionate because Martin was in his 23rd Daytona 500 start; he has never won. Such a win, arguably, would have been as popular with fans as Dale Earnhardt's 1998 victory (in his 20th start) or Darrell Waltrip's 1989 triumph (in his 17th). With Martin no longer competing for the season-long Sprint Cup championship due to a reduction in his schedule, the Daytona 500 is one of the few honors he can still win as a driver (the #01 team is racing for the owners (team) championship, with Regan Smith driving the other 14 races). To add further irony, Martin and his family have chosen to live full-time in the Daytona Beach area, whereas most drivers live in the Lake Norman area north of Charlotte, North Carolina.
However, it should be noted in some races, NASCAR has permitted the cars to run to the finish in case of more "minor" spins on the last lap. However many[who?] speculate that this crash was far too large and too dangerous not to throw the yellow and give Martin the win.
2006 Ford 400
|NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Season
2007 Auto Club 500