Live Blog: The 55th Daytona 500

To put it lightly, it's been a strange few weeks at Daytona. We've had some major ups, and some major downs, but today we've just got one thing: The 55th annual Daytona 500 mile race. Follow the main event here.

Posts are listed in the order they are made, with the newest posts at the top and the oldest at the bottom. each new post is signified by a line break. Along with this blog, I'd recommend using NASCAR's live leaderboard here to follow the changing of positions and the track conditions.

The Daytona 500

The inside failed miserably on the restart with 6 to go, and nobody stepped out of line until  Dale Earnhardt Jr did with just half a lap to go. Earnhardt successfully moved up to second, but didn't have time to challenge for the win. David Reuitmann wrecked on the backstretch during the last lap, but the caution was not thrown.

JIMMIE JOHNSON WINS THE DAYTONA 500 FOR THE SECOND TIME IN HIS 400TH CAREER START.

GREEN FLAG. this is it.

As I said in the beginning of this, the line that prevails will be the line with the most strong, patient cars. Which line will that be, and who will be leading it? We'll find out in about 8 laps.

JOHNSON HAS DAMAGE ON THE SPLITTER. He hit a large piece of aluminum and has some minor damage. This is what brought out the caution.

This is it. One small break and then we have a 35 car battle for the 55th Daytona 500.

Caution 6

Debris caution! DEBRIS CAUTION!

Keselowski is using a lesson learnt from Jeff Gordon in the duels and blocking two lanes at once. 

THREE WIDE FROM 7TH ON BACK.  Anyone in this top 10 could win.

The green fell again two laps ago and we're STILL side by side. Johnson's inside vs Keselowski's outside. This is the race. 

Waltrip pits late and now it's just Keselowski leading. He chooses the outside and has the strong Biffle, Patrick and Gordon cars behind him. Johnson on the inside has the 9 and the 11.

Brad Keselowski and Michael Waltrip stay out on the Restart. Jimmie Johnson in P3. 20 to go as we get the green flag.

Expect no stops for anyone but the three who didn't pit (Speed, Keselowski, Waltrip) and a relatively short cleanup. In other words, a bathroom and snack break before the final shootout.

Caution 5

The caution is out! Jeff Burton blows a tire and has a huge impact with the wall. Believe it or not, Scott Speed leads the pack!

Almost everyone pits at once! 

Side-by-side commercials again. Only about 30 laps to go and fuel stops are coming soon.

Kyle Busch has a completely unrelated issue and the hood is up on what was likely the second best car in the field. Kyle Busch has blown an engine.

Back to green. the 20 has a vibration and his car is smoking. the dominant car is pulling into the pits  as the smoke gets worse.

There's no two ways about it: that incident took out or damaged most of the Fords in the field. Among those involved, Edwards, Stenhouse Jr, Gilliland, Ragan, Wise, Keselowski, Labonte, Bayne and the only Chevrolet involved, the 33 of Austin Dillon. Joey Logano, also in a Ford, had an extended pit stop for an unrelated issue. Thanks to the earlier issues with the 13 of Mears and the 43 of Almirola, there are only two healthy Fusions left in the field: the 16 of Greg Biffle and the 9 of Marcos Ambrose.

Caution 4

Another "big one". Big names involved include Keselowski and Edwards.

That's another cycle of green flag stops done. The Toyotas pit together early and now all six of the factory backed, TRD powered entries are together up front. Kenseth leads Hamlin, Bowyer, Busch, Martin and Truex Jr.

Still entirely clean up front and the entirety of the lead lap is in the same single file pack.

Didn't take long for new Daytona 500 king Kenseth's outside lane to become the only lane. The top 23 or so have broken away. Lap 100.

First Hamlin, then Kenseth, move up from the inside to take Patrick's lead. The first four cars are in line, then it's side by side from 5th on back.

Danica Patrick has an incredible restart and leads the Daytona 500 for the first time in her career. She now leads Bowyer and Waltrip in the outside line, with the 11 of Hamlin leading the inside side by side with Bowyer. a third pack lead by the 51 of Regan Smith is three wide for about 15th.

Everyone in the field pits for fuel only. Patrick gets her car checked over but thanks to her #1 pit stall (earned with the pole), she gains positions and comes out first. Waltrip stays out and thus starts from P1.

Caution 3

Debris Turn 3. Caution.

Patrick has a vibration. That's generally a very bad sign.

Stops have cycled through and there are now 16 cars in the lead pack, lead by Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr.  Kenseth and Johnson are 3rd and 4th.

Green flag pit stops done. Almirola gets a speeding penalty, Patrick has a horrendously slow stop and Busch's car falls off the jack. Johnson will likely be leading once things cycle through.

Kenseth's issue was a beer can hitting his splitter, not a loose wheel. It will be checked out when he pits. The leaders are all keeping a rather slow pace right now, with Patrick apparently at half throttle most of the way around. Green flag stops are about 3 laps away.

Our leader Matt Kenseth has a loose wheel or tire. Expect him to get out of the pack and pit if it gets worse. If it doesn't, he'll just wait for his scheduled stop in 10 laps. Lap 55.

It's taken longer than usual, but the outside is prevailing. Kenseth, Johnson, Patrick, Gordon, Ky. Busch the top 5. Lap 43.

Kenseth has taken the lead from Johnson with the help of Bowyer. and a few other low lane cars. 

We restart and Johnson keeps his lead. Patrick and Johnson run the high lane, Kenseth and Bowyer the low lane. 

Harvick and Stewart are done. McMurry and Montoya in the garage. everyone else fixes their car in the pits.

Caution 2

THERE'S THE BIG ONE. Kasey Kahne gets spun by Kyle Busch. Montoya, Keselowski, Stewart, Harvick and Mears all involved.

Johnson and Kenseth take the lead from Gordon, leaving the inside lane to Patrick who's actually piloting well.

Apparently Fox doesn't understand how to count. That order off pit road was all wrong. The inside, lead by Johnson, is now challenging the outside, lead by Gordon.

Caution 1 

Jeff Gordon leads out of the pits, followed by Austin Dillon (who had a stunningly quick stop),  Kyle Busch (who had to go through the grass to maintain speed), Kasey Kahne and Danica Patrick (who had a stunningly slow stop).

Gordon cleaned off his grille with the back bumper of Geoff Bodine's pace car.

The caution is out for debris on the backstretch. Expect everyone to pit.

Gordon almost loses the lead by trying to clean his grille while lapping the 87. He succeeded in keeping his lead, but not in cleaning his grille. Patrick and Ky. Busch are still clearly impatient riding behind him. Lap 20.

Trevor Bayne almost spins out of 39th, causing himself to lose the draft. Waltrip, who was stuck behind him and had to use a massive lift to evade, also loses the draft.

Single file to about 20th and no start and parks, but the 87 and 38 are off the pace. The 38 is down a cylinder.

Side by side commercials (which is always nice!), but not side by side up front. The once outside lane is now a 10 car breakaway. Gordon still leads Patrick, but both Patrick and Ky. Busch look impatient and ready to lead.

It's officially 3 wide up and Harvick is already making his move for the lead with his inside lane.  Side by side with Patrick.

The outside line is now leading by 7 cars, then there's a double file group behind with three cars (22, 48, 88) in the middle on their own. lap 5.

The green flag is out and Gordon has already passed Patrick for the race lead. the outside line has about six car lengths on the inside line.

Danica Patrick will start from the outside lane, as expected. It prevailed early in both of the qualifying races on Thursday.

Pre-Race

But hey, at least engines are started and we're about to go green in Daytona!

James Franco just gave the command to start engines by saying "Drivers and Danica, Start Your Engines!"...

Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr missed the pre-race driver's meeting and thus will likely have to start from the back of the field.

So, what are we in for? Well, if you'd seen the "Sprint Unlimited" and the Duel heat races, you might have an idea.  We'll see two major lines of cars and an ebb and flow of strength between the two. Quite a lot has been said about which line would be faster, but it's clear to most that the fastest line will be the line with the most powerful cars that are working together in the most efficient way. Lead changes are going to happen often, but when they happen it will be clear for multiple laps that they're coming together. There won't be tons of last minute, unexpected passes like you've seen in the Nationwide and Truck races this weekend, but that doesn't mean the leader is safe when the white flag comes out. Furthermore, since these new cars can't bump, there will be fewer cautions than most plate races, and hopefully some extremely clean racing.

The favorites for the event are the leading Chevrolets from Stewart-Haas Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress racing, but that doesn't mean those cars are the only contenders. The Toyotas from JGR and MWR, as well as the Fords from RPM, Roush-Fenway Racing, Penske Racing and in particular Wood Brothers Racing, will be worth watching as well.