Watch: the huge crash that turned today's Daytona 500 on its head
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The 2019 NASCAR season kicked off today proper with the first points-paying event of the year; the iconic Daytona 500. And, as most of these anxious pack-racing restrictor-plate races tend to be, big crashes played a prominent role.
It was actually quite a clean race in the main. There were some minor spills early for the likes of Bubba Wallace and Kurt Busch, but otherwise things were largely clean ... until the last 20 laps.
One of the big fairy-tale stories of the day had been Matt DiBenedetto. After swapping off-season to a Toyota Camry, the popular former privateer led plenty of laps. At the halfway point, he had led more laps than anyone else in the Daytona 500. And as the final laps approached he was in the hot seat for at least a podium, hovering on the edge of the top four as Toyota compatriots Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch led.
But the fairy-tale didn't last.
With the end in sight DiBenedetto spun after an ambitious drafting push from Paul Menard. The spinning Camry triggered a huge 18-car stack that sucked in many of the most promising names in the race, including the likes of Ryan Blaney, Ryan Truex Jr, and many more.
Perhaps most spectacular of all was Aric Almirola's Stewart Haas entry, which slid over the top of David Ragan. Thankfully everyone was able to get out of their cars without major injury.
Of course, it was like someone flicked a light. The race then descended into a crash fest after spending so many prior laps in green conditions. Right now it's still unfolding, two further big crashes since 'the big one' further interrupting proceedings — the latest claiming Clint Bowyer and seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson among others [video below]. The race now sits under red-flag conditions, with just 14 cars out of 43 left on the lead lap.
In the end, the win went to Hamlin — his second at Daytona, and a timely one given the recent loss of Joe Gibbs Racing co-owner Jason Dean 'J.D' Gibbs. Kyle Busch and Eric Jones made it a JGR 1–2-3, over defending champion Joey Logano and Michael McDowell.