DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Mark Martin scored a 10th-place finish in Sunday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway and led his Hendrick Motorsports teammates, who were affected by incidents throughout the race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was scored with a 24th-place finish, while Jimmie Johnson crossed the line 27th and Jeff Gordon took 28th.
Martin, driver of the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, started the season-opening NASCAR Sprint Cup event from the 17th position. Martin was impacted by an incident on Lap 29 that collected his teammates Gordon and Johnson, plus 14 other cars.
Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, had started the event from the outside pole position, and had led one lap. But he lost the draft and was running around the 26th position when the accident took place. His No. 24 Chevrolet sustained such significant damage that his team made the necessary repairs in the garage. Gordon returned to the track with the championship in mind.
“It’s such a bummer,” Gordon said while his team fixed his car Sunday.” We had such a fast race car, such a great race team. You have to take what you can from this. The most disappointing thing is we don’t have a shot at winning the Daytona 500. We prepared so long and hard; these guys worked so hard and built me such a great race car. So that is the bummer. But at the same time, this could be a good lesson for us to repair this car and get back out there and get ourselves prepared to win a championship."
Johnson, who lined up 23rd for the 500-mile event, also held that same mindset after his No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet was damaged during that Lap 29 incident. Johnson’s team made the necessary repairs and sent the five-time defending Cup champion back onto the track to race for points. He finished 27th. Gordon followed his teammate in the 28th position. Johnson ranks 25th in the standings, and Gordon is 26th.
Meanwhile, Martin continued to make up ground on the racetrack. His Chevrolet suffered only minor damage during the multi-car incident, and his team was able to make those repairs on pit road. The NASCAR veteran climbed through the field and was running in the top 15 when NASCAR officials waved the caution flag for the 15th time of the event. This yellow flag set the stage for a green-white-checkered flag finish.
Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, was running in the top 10 at that time. Originally the pole sitter, Earnhardt was reassigned to the rear of the field for the start of the Daytona 500. He climbed from that deep starting spot to run inside the top 10 within the first 10 laps. He contended for the lead multiple times, leading three times for nine laps. But Earnhardt’s hope for a second Daytona 500 victory was hampered when he perceived his left-rear tire was going flat. He made an unscheduled pit stop, which cost him position for the two-lap finish.
As the pace car left the track, and the field took the green flag, Martin was running eighth and Earnhardt was running 16th. During the restart, Martin escaped but Earnhardt was collected in a multi-car incident that retired the No. 88 Chevrolet.
“We ran good and had as much fun as we could under the circumstances there,” said Earnhardt, who ranks 22nd in the standings. “It just got crazy there at the end. That restart where I wrecked at the end, we just got hit in the quarter panel trying to get by a wreck. We may have caused a few today, I don’t know. It was wild. I want to thank all the guys on my team; they worked so hard.”
Martin lined up fourth for the final restart but couldn’t find a drafting partner fast enough. Without help, he slipped through the field, but held on to cross the finish line 10th. He ranks ninth in the driver standings.