After all the talk, all all the testing and all the wrecking finally 43 Sprint Cup drivers would take the green flag to kick off the 2014 season.
Leading the field to the green was rookie, Austin Dillon who as well documented has brought the number three car back to the NSCS in 2014.
Early on in the race another rookie contender, Kyle Larson hit the wall and was forced to hit pit road to repair some damage to his car. The unscheduled pit stop cost him the draft and track position.
Greg Biffle also suffered damage to the right front of his car and also had to hit pit road under green. Like Larson he went down one lap but Larson day continued to get worse as he cut another tire and spun.
Pit road was fairly eventful for a handful of drivers. Matt Kenseth got turned trying to enter his pit and ended up completing their stop backwards. Danica Patrick got damage as well on pit road when she and Marcos Ambrose had contact as well.
The restart saw drivers taking three and four wide but caution waved when outside polesitter engine blew sending a trail of oil around the track.
Half the field hit pit road but weather would move in and force the cars to pit road for a red flag. After a six hour plus rain delay NASCAR got the cars back on track and the action picked up.
Drivers were three and four wide but as pit stops approached drivers prepared to hit pit road. Jeff Gordon was the first to hit pit road.
Soon after the rest of the pack started to hit pit road, Kasey Kahne spun coming off of pit road. Busch had some troubles when he removed equipment from the box.
Almirola also committed the same penalty and was forced to hit pit road under green to serve the penalty. Tony Stewart began having issues with the fuel pickup after that round of pitstops. Stewart hopes to win his first Daytona 500 would have to wait till next year.
The action continued to pick up on the track as drivers and teams negotiated their pit cycles and track position.
Clint Bowyer would hit pit road for his schedule stop but lost an engine in the process. Both him and Stewart would see their days over.
With just 55 laps to go the first multi-car wreck broke out when contact between Brian Scott and Kevin Harvick made contact. Patrick, Almirola, Dillon, Kahne, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. David Gilliand, Michael Waltrip, Justin Allgaier, Paul Menard, Josh Wise and Parker Kligerman all were involved.
The leaders hit pit road and with weather near the tension rose. With 39 laps to go, Dillon made contact with Larson and set off a crash that collected Ambrose, Kahne, Michael Annett, Brian Vickers were all involved.
Drivers not involved were already close on fuel and some were shutting their cars on and off to save fuel.
With 17 laps to go Trevor Bayne turned hard into the wall bringing out the caution. The field would take the green with 14 laps to go.
Earnhardt was looking to win his first race since Michigan in 2012. With seven laps to go Ryan Newman made contact and turned in front of the back half of the field. Allgaier, Kligerman, Cole Whitt, Terry Labonte, and Scott all were involved.
This would setup a green-white-checkers. The strongest car all day in Earnhardt would be able to hold off the field and win the Daytona 500.
A last lap wreck collected Carl Edwards, Reed Sorenson, Harvick and Kyle Busch among others. In the end it was Earnhardt who held off his teammates and a hard charging Denny Hamlin.
The rest of the top 10 were Hamlin, Keselowski, Gordon, Johnson, Stenhouse, Kenseth, Dillon, Biffle and Casey Mears.
Next week the NSCS heads out west to Pheonix International Raceway at 2:30 ET on FOX.
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