The accident came a day after a horrific wreck in a second-tier NASCAR series race hurled chunks of debris, including a heavy tire, into the stands and injured nearly 30 people.
Joe Gibbs Racing also needs to rebound after a 1-2-3 run of Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch was quickly down to just Hamlin. Kenseth’s smoky No. 20 hit pit road with engine woes and Busch’s race soon ended with a blown engine. Busch was furious as he walked alone back to his hauler.
Hamlin failed to keep his fast pace and fell back to 14th.
“All of the guys at JGR built an awesome piece,” said Busch, who won the second duel of Speedweeks. “But we’ve got to have engines that last.”
Kenseth led a race-high 86 laps and left with the lead after 149 laps.
“You can’t drop out and win championships,” he said. “We had all the right things, we just didn’t make it to the end.”
Hamlin didn’t have an engine issue, he had a former teammate issue. Hamlin took aim with former JGR driver Joey Logano, who moved on to Penske Racing.
Hamlin tweeted, “(at) keselowski sorry I couldn’t get close to you cuz your genius teammate was too busy messing up the inside line 1 move at a time.”
Keselowski, the reigning Sprint Cup champion, escaped the first wreck that knocked out the heavy favorites and dodged danger again in the Edwards’ crash. He led the race with 20 laps left but smacked into some debris on the speedway and slowed down just enough to finish fourth.
“We wrecked about three times today and still had a shot at the win,” Keselowski said. “We just came up short.”
Stewart, who won the crash-marred Nationwide race Saturday, never got the chance to at least be in the hunt. His second-tier win was his 19th victory at Daytona in all other races at the track except the 500. He has more wins at one of NASCAR’s most famous tracks than everyone except Dale Earnhardt (34).
Earnhardt won the Daytona 500 in his 20th try.
Stewart will at least stretch it out to 16.
The race wasn’t a total loss for Stewart. His Stewart-Haas Racing team fields the car for pole-winner Danica Patrick. Patrick became the first woman to lead a lap in the Daytona 500. She led five laps and finished eighth. On the starting grid, Stewart gave her a big hug and whispered into her ear before she slid into the cockpit.