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Rewind | Earlier start might've beat the rain

Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009

Rewinding Sunday's rain-shortened Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway:

David Poole | Rear-view mirror

NASCAR choked on not penalizing Dale Earnhardt Jr. for his move on Brian Vickers that set off the big wreck on Lap 124.

Vickers threw a block, just like everybody does in plate races, and cut Earnhardt off. Earnhardt got below the yellow line and came back up into Vickers, starting a big wreck.

Whether Earnhardt intended to crash anybody is not relevant. The move was at least as aggressive as one made by Jason Leffler when he hit Steven Wallace in Saturday's Nationwide Series race. Leffler got a five-lap penalty, and Earnhardt should have gotten at least that and probably more.

Matt Kenseth was the leader when it rained. He's the 2009 Daytona 500 champion and that's that. Congratulations to him, his team and first-time 500-winning team owner Jack Roush.

But it is worth noting that if NASCAR and Fox Sport didn't feel the need to stick so much prerace thumb-twiddling in before the green flag that we might have run the full 500 miles.

The green flag came around 3:40 p.m. Back that up an hour and this day wouldn't have come to such an abrupt, odd-feeling ending.

Pit stops

Harvick gives some payback

Kevin Harvick exacted some payback in Sunday's Daytona 500 - but in a good way.

Two years ago when Harvick won this race, he got a nice push on the final lap from Matt Kenseth that helped him clear Mark Martin.

Just before the last caution fell on unday, Harvick bumped Kenseth to help him clear Elliott Sadler - a move that ended up giving Kenseth the victory.

"I mean, you always want to win the race. Knowing what it's like to win the Daytona 500, it's a lot of fun to win and neat to be in the Victory Lane," Harvick said.

"But, you know, it's also kind of bittersweet, I guess you could say, for the fact that Matt is the one that pushed me to my Daytona 500 win. In the end, it's kind of weird how that stuff works out."

Said Kenseth: "At the end of the day, you try to help people when you can and (so) it doesn't hurt your effort. We had a big run and Kevin could have gone with Elliott, but he went with us.

"I'm glad it was Kevin. I remember when I gave him that huge shove on the backstretch and he was able to win the 500."

Ragan wanted more, settles for sixth

With Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth celebrating a Daytona 500 victory, David Ragan didn't want to feel too bad about his sixth-place finish. But had the race resumed, he had his sights set on even better things for the No. 6 team.

"I think our race team was capable of winning the race, and you only get one Daytona 500 a year," Ragan said. "So it's going to be a thing that I think about all night.

"At times I felt like I was the best car on the race track. Sometimes I felt like we were a sitting duck and we were going to finish 25th. I was just all dependent on the help I had.

"But we had a lot of help because I had a fast car."

Waltrip's top 10 an 'overachievement'

Michael Waltrip won the last time the Daytona 500 wasn't run to at least 500 miles, in 2003 when he won a rain-shortened race for his second victory in this event.

He finished seventh Sunday, avoiding all the problems and getting his season off to a good start.

"We might have overachieved a little bit," Waltrip said. "We didn't have too good of a car. To scramble and get in the top 10, I am happy with that. ...It handled great and maybe that's why it wasn't so fast."

No place to go but up for Logano

Joey Logano finished 43rd as the youngest driver in Daytona 500 history.

He completed just 79 laps and was taken out in a wreck.

"It looked like the 82 kept getting loose in front of me," Logano said, referring to fellow rookie of the year candidate Scott Speed. "I jumped down below him in the middle of the corner just to try to get some air on my car because it was tight. As he kept checking up I ended up next to him in the corner. Then the 16 (Greg Biffle) just came up and got us."

Bowyer hopes to silence 'naysayers'

Clint Bowyer said he hopes his fourth-place finish and the strength of his new No. 33 team at Richard Childress Racing will help silence some of those who thought he would not be able to continue his success after the change of teams.

"The naysayers have already got us out of the Chase and everything else," Bowyer said. "I think this just proves, first race out of the box, that we're capable of getting the job done still."

Bowyer also wished the race could have remained green. Asked if he had a chance to win, he replied: "I certainly would like to think so."

Stewart's finish is team's bright spot

Tony Stewart's eighth-place finish was the lone bright spot in the debut of his two-car Stewart-Haas Racing team.

Stewart and teammate Ryan Newman both wrecked over the weekend, needing backup cars, and Newman blew an engine during a practice session.

Stewart was also incensed by what he saw as a lack of help from fellow drivers in Sunday's race.

"I just tried to get in the right line to go with," he said. "We've been hung out to dry about 8,000 times in 150 laps here, so we'll do it our own."

Newman finished 36th, two laps down. Key moments

Lap 55

Dale Earnhardt Jr. misses his stall as he comes down pit road and has to go around and come back in again. It's the first of two costly errors that play into the rest of the race. Later, he's penalized a lap for pitting outside his pit box as well.

Lap 119

Elliott Sadler is on pit road when David Stremme blows a tire to bring out a yellow. That allows Sadler to come back out after getting fuel and tires and stay out as the rest of the leaders pit. Sadler moves into the lead and into contention for a win.

Lap 124

Brian Vickers is on the end of the lead lap when the green flag flies. Vickers tries to hold off Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s lapped car as they battle for the lucky dog spot, but they collide and set off a wreck that takes out several of the best cars, including Kyle Busch's.

Lap 143

The green flag flies with Sadler in the lead. There had been sprinkles of rain during the previous yellow flag and Sadler hoped it might end with him in the lead. But the race got going again and Sadler still had work to do.

Lap 146

Matt Kenseth gets the lead with a push from Kevin Harvick in the draft as they go to the low side on Sadler. Moments after that pass, Aric Almirola's car hits the wall and brings out the yellow and the rain arrives, ending the race.

Next race

Auto Club 500

Where: Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, Calif.

When: 6 p.m. Eastern Sunday.

TV: Fox Sports.

Radio: Motor Racing Network.

Last year's winner: Carl Edwards.