Jimmie Johnson’s Final Daytona 500 Ends Early

Jimmie Johnson at Driver Introductions for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 16: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, is introduced prior to the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2020,in Daytona Beach, Florida. Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In the hours before his final Daytona 500 start, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was riding bikes with his wife and two young daughters in the infield, enjoying the sunny Florida day and the good vibes before NASCAR’s highest-profile green flag flew.

On the grid before the race, Johnson’s daughters took turns sitting in the driver’s seat of their dad’s famed No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. And then moments later, their father rolled off and into the last Daytona 500 he’s scheduled to run before retiring at the end of the season.

For most of the day, Johnson kept the car upfront and looked absolutely ready to contend for his third Daytona 500 trophy… only to be collected in a late-race wreck while running in the top five. Johnson was caught in a 19-car accident with 16 laps remaining in the 200-lap race – a race won for the second consecutive time by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin.

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Massive Wreck Denies Brad Keselowski Chance at 500 Victory – Again

Brad Keselowski leads the field in the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 17: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Discount Tire Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2020,in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

With 17 laps left in Monday’s rain-delayed Daytona 500, Brad Keselowski was running at the front of the field, a contender to win the Great American Race for the first time.

Barely more than half a lap later, Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske Ford was wrecked beyond repair, the victim of a 19-car accident. The chain-reaction incident started when Joey Logano bump-drafted Aric Almirola’s Ford into Keselowski’s car, knocking it sideways near the front of the field.

Keselowski was eliminated from the race in 36th place.

“It was just one of those racing deals,” Keselowski said after leaving the infield care center. “We had a really good Discount Tire Ford. My team did an incredible job today to put ourselves in position to lead a lot of laps and run upfront. I am proud of the way we started with some fast race cars. Unfortunately, it didn’t come together there at the end.

I probably made a little bit of a bad move not blocking the 6 (Ryan Newman) and 95 (Christopher Bell). I didn’t know the 95 was that darn fast. He pushed the 6 like a rocket and I didn’t think they would come with that big of a run and when they did, I didn’t cover it. I put myself into a position where when they did wreck, I couldn’t make it through.”

Crash Brings Early End to Daytona 500 for Duel Winner William Byron

William Byron's No. 24 in the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 17: William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta ‘Color of the Year’ Chevrolet, races during the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2020, in Daytona Beach, Florida.Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

William Byron tasted victory for the first time in the NASCAR Cup Series in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday night.

In Monday’s rain-delayed Daytona 500, Byron experienced the sting of an early exit from NASCAR’s most prestigious race.

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