2006 Daytona 500
|Race 1 of 36 in the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series season|
Track map of Daytona International Speedway showing mainly the speedway.
|Date||February 19, 2006|
|Location||Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.
|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||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.|
|No. 48||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports|
|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 was held on February 19, 2006 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. Jimmie Johnson won the race in a green-white-checker finish. It was the second Daytona 500 in a row to go longer than 200 laps and 500 miles (800 km); this race, like the previous Daytona 500, had a total distance of 203 laps and 507.5 miles (816.7 km). This 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 four 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 prime-time portion of its day's coverage of the Winter Olympic Games from Turin). There were several lead changes in the early part of the race, with a race record of 32. The first caution came on lap 18 when Martin Truex, Jr. hit the wall. During this caution, Burton was passed by Elliott Sadler for the lead a lap later. The race restarted on lap 20 and four laps later, Jeff Gordon took the led away from Sadler. Carl Edwards, a popular "dark horse candidate" for the Nextel Cup championship, had his day end early, as he was involved in a five-car pileup on lap 80 that collected Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty, Jeff Green, J.J. Yeley, and Joe Nemechek. This was the biggest crash of the day, since the "Big One" never occurred. This would also bring out the third caution flag. Because of this, Edwards finished 43rd. Tony Stewart was a "magnet for controversy", tangling in two incidents with Jeff Gordon on lap 48 and Matt Kenseth on lap 106. The first incident, which left debris on the track, brought out the second caution and the second one brought out the fifth caution. Stewart was penalized for aggressive driving after the incident with Kenseth, in which he blocked the No. 17 car into the grass, causing it to spin and hit the turn 3 wall. Kenseth took matters into his own hands and was black-flagged for hitting Stewart's car in retaliation on pit road. The three drivers involved in these two incidents repaired their cars and got back into contention.
Jimmie Johnson had one of the strongest cars all day. He took the lead with 10 laps to go just as the ninth caution flag came out for an crash involving Gordon, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, and Sterling Marlin. This set up a 10-lap battle for the win. The race was extended into "overtime" when McMurray and Burton collided on lap 197, bringing out yet the 10th caution. The green-white-checker finish ended when Casey Mears and Ryan Newman battled for second, leaving Johnson to take the victory. The race ended under caution when Greg Biffle crashed in turn 4, just before Johnson crossed the start-finish line. The 48th running of the Daytona 500 was the first win for the #48 car on a restrictor plate track. This was also Johnson's 19th career win and his first during his streak of five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships from 2006 to 2010.
One surprise of this race was Kirk Shelmerdine, who finished 20th. He had barely qualified for the Daytona 500 and his independently-owned No. 27 was fielded with a car that had a borrowed engine and donated tires, as well as a team with a volunteer pit crew.
- (R) - Denotes driver making their first attempt at the Daytona 500
- (W) - Denotes former Daytona 500 winner