DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Bottle this one and save it for the ages because you might not see another Daytona 500 finish like this in your lifetime.
It was the wildest 500 finish since 1976, when David Pearson and Richard Petty wrecked into the trioval lawn coming to the checkered flag and Pearson went on to win.
Kevin Harvick passed leader Mark Martin on Sunday heading into the fourth turn on the final lap of an overtime finish and beat the 48-year-old veteran and perennial runner-up to by mere feet.
The finish – the margin of victory was listed as 0.020 second – was the closest in the Daytona 500 since NASCAR instituted electronic scoring in 1993 and the eighth-closest Cup finish ever.
As the two raced to the checkered flag, 10 cars spun, wrecked, rolled over and caught fire behind them in a finish of mass confusion.
As smoke enveloped the frontstretch from the burning car of Harvick’s teammate Clint Bowyer and tire smoke from other wrecked cars scattered across the trioval, Harvick parked his car not far from the carnage, did a small burnout and then jumped joyously out of the Richard Childress Racing Chevy, where he was greeted by teammate and third-place finisher Jeff Burton.
“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?”
Martin drove to the opening of pit road where cars are checked and then to the garage, signaling that Harvick had indeed won.
“I really wanted to win that thing,” Martin said. “They were going to have to pry it out of my fingers, man.”
And as late as two hours after the checkered flag, NASCAR was still trying to explain the finish.