|Johnson Wins Daytona 500, Patrick 8th|
|By ALYSSA NEWCOMB (@AlyssaNewcomb)||Feb 24, 2013, 9:53 AM|
NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson won the Daytona 500 today, while Danica Patrick, who made history as the first woman to win the pole position in the race, finished in eighth place.
Crews worked overnight to repair a fence at the Daytona International Speedway for today's race after a fiery crash in the final lap of the Nationwide race Saturday injured at least 28 fans when debris flew into the stands.
While there were no reports of fans being injured today, there were a handful of crashes.
A nine-car wreck during lap 34 of the race took star drivers Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick out of the running. Stewart won the Nationwide race at the speedway on Saturday.
"Happy with our car, was just waiting for it to all get sorted out again," Stewart told ESPN. "I don't know what started it, but we just got caught up in another wreck."
It was a history-making race for Patrick, who was entered the final lap in third place, but finished in eighth, the best showing for a woman at the Daytona 500. She also became the first woman to lead a lap -- she led five -- at the prestigous race.
The previous highest woman finisher was Janet Guthrie, who came in 11th in 1980.
Patrick, who was a star on the IndyCar circuit before moving to NASCAR, seemed ready to make a run at Johnson in the final laps, but the Sprint Cup rookie dropped from third to eighth as more experienced drivers passed her.
"You spend a lot of time thinking about what to do when the time comes," Patrick said. "I kept asking up above what was working. You needed a hole, you needed people to help you out. I had a little bit of help today here and there, but I felt like if I was going to dive low, I had a feeling I was going to get freight-trained. ... At the end of the day, it was a solid day.
"We stayed basically in the top 10 all day long," she said. "You can't really complain about that. It was nice."
Several cars tangled and crashed in the final lap of the race, although nothing like Saturday's last-lap crash that sent rookie Kyle Larson's car airborne and a tire, engine and other debris barreling into the stands.
NASCAR officials did not throw a yellow flag and allowed Johnson to lead the pack to the checkered flag at the finish line.
The Race Goes On
Joie Chitwood III, president of Daytona International Speedway, said earlier today that every seat at the track, including the area where at least 28 fans were injured, would be filled.
If fans were uneasy about their seating location today, Chitwood said his team would make "every accommodation we can" to move them.
The track became a disaster scene on Saturday when 12 cars became tangled in a fiery crash during the final lap of the Nationwide race.
Pieces of rookie Kyle Larson's shredded race car turned into shrapnel that flew into the stands, injuring at least 28 people.
At least 14 of the injured were transported to hospitals and more than a dozen others were treated at the speedway, Chitwood said.
"I do know that we transported individuals from lower level and upper level [of the grandstands]," he said.
Terry Huckabee, who was sitting in the grandstands with his brother, compared the scene to a "war zone."
"I mean, tire flying by and smoke and everything else," he said.
Huckabee said his brother is recovering in the hospital after his leg was sliced open by the spray of debris.
The crash was apparently triggered when driver Regan Smith's car, which was being tailed by Brad Keselowski on his back bumper, spun to the right and shot up the track.
Smith had been in the lead and said after the crash he had been trying to throw a "block."
Larson's car slammed into the wall that separates the track from the grandstands, causing his No. 32 car to go airborne and erupt in flames.
When a haze of smoke cleared and Larson's car came to a stop, he jumped out uninjured.
His engine and one of his wheels were sitting in a walkway of the grandstand.
"I was getting pushed from behind," Larson told ESPN. "Before I could react, it was too late."
Tony Stewart pulled out the win, but in victory lane, what would have been a celebratory mood was tempered by concern for the injured fans.
"We've always known this is a dangerous sport," Stewart said. "But it's hard when the fans get caught up in it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.