After taking the lead with 20 laps to go, Matt Kenseth never looked back as he held the field off in a late race restart, getting ahead of the field and keeping the gap till the very end, with a perfectly timed block on Martin Truex Jr.
“It’s a great feeling,” Kenseth commented. “It’s always fun to win at Daytona – it’s fun to win anywhere. Just proud of all these guys. I had a feeling that we were going to have a lot of fun this week – all of our cars have speed.”
Kenseth is entering his third season with Joe Gibbs Racing and his 16th Sprint Cup Series season. The driver of the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota had success last year, making the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. entered the year looking for something positive following a season that left him outside of the top 20 in points while girlfriend Sherry Pollex battled ovarian cancer. With new crew Cole Pearn on the pit box, the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet led a majority of the first half of the race before finishing second.
“The race was over when Kenseth got by me for the lead,” Truex said. “I knew that he was good here and it’d be hard to pass him. I guess he was just a better blocker than I was. We had a strong car and pushed hard out there, but just came up short.
“After the last year and a half, we needed that. really proud of the 78 team’s effort over the winter, and really excited for this season.”
Carl Edwards would finish third after making the switch from Roush Fenway Racing to JGR during the off-season, followed by Casey Mears and Kyle Larson. Logano would finish sixth, and then get into a post-race scuffle with Kevin Harvick after bump drafting between the pair caused Harvick to get into the outside wall and cut a tire. Jeff Gordon finished seventh in his final Sprint Unlimited.
“There was a lot of them that I dodged,” Gordon reflected on the wrecks he was able to miss. “I’m happy that we survived those. We had an awesome car; I really thought we had a car that could win the race. I got in the inside lane on the restart, and just got stuck there.”
Kyle Busch finished eighth, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt looked as though he would be a real contender throughout, but debris on the grill while leading caused the water and oil temperatures to spike, forcing him to make an unscheduled green flag pit stop. He was able to get back in line with a following caution, but the damage to the motor hindered his performance for the rest of the night.
Danica Patrick would round out the top 10, followed by Harvick, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle. Only the top 12 drivers finishes as teh rest were taken out through the series of accidents that occurred during the night.