The 2012 Daytona 500 could have been remembered for many reasons, not the least of which was that it marked Matt Kenseth’s second championship in the NASCAR Cup Series’ biggest race. Ask a racing fan their No. 1 recollection, however, and there’s a good chance that the first three words out of their mouth will be “Juan Pablo Montoya.”
Montoya’s accident not only added to the excruciating wait to crown a winner that day, but it went into the books as the most bizarre NASCAR crash ever.
The 2012 Daytona 500 resulted in some firsts
The 2012 Daytona 500 was already one for the books in NASCAR Cup Series history because it marked the first time that the circuit’s best-known race had to be pushed back a day. When rain made Sunday racing impossible, officials moved the start to noon the following day, Feb. 27. The weather still wouldn’t cooperate early Monday, so the race became the first Daytona 500 to be run at night.
The first primetime 500 was relatively uneventful until shortly before the three-quarters point. On lap 157, David Stremme’s Toyota experience engine failure and dropped oil on the track to trigger a wreck and bring out the day’s seventh caution flag. That gave Juan Pablo Montoya a chance to make a routine pit stop.
Shortly after returning to the track, Montoya reported to his team that there was a vibration in his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevy, necessitating a return to the pits. And that’s where the wildness began. Let it suffice to say that Brad Keselowski tweeting photos from his car wasn’t the only wild development about to transpire.
Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2012 Daytona 500 wreck was bizarre
Juan Pablo Montoya’s pit crew couldn’t locate the source of the vibration that he had reported moments earlier. He raced back onto the track, where the field remained under caution, but a mechanical failure, possibly a broken rear trailing arm, caused him to lose control. Montoya’s car skidded up the Turn 3 banking and plowed into one of the jet dryers servicing the area of the track where David Stremme’s Toyota dropped oil and caused an accident.
The jet dryer’s fuel tank ruptured, dropping kerosene onto the track. Moments later, Terry Labonte’s Ford drove through the spill and ignited the fuel, creating a wall of fire. The damage to the vehicles and the track triggered a red flag that necessitated a two-hour delay, during which Brad Keselowski famously pulled out his phone and uploaded photos to social media — another NASCAR Cup Series first.
The race would not resume until 11:57 p.m.
“You would think after 65 years and running all the races that NASCAR has run … that you’ve seen about everything,” NASCAR President Mike Helton said, according to Fox News. “You do think about, ‘Oh, my gosh, if that can happen, what else can happen?’”
Said Montoya: “I’ve hit a lot of things … but a jet dryer?”
Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag on lap 202
Matt Kenseth surrendered his lead after a caution on lap 176 but regained it on lap 182, only to see another caution flag came out five laps later after Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne triggered an 11-car wreck. By now, time was running short on the field and drivers were taking big chances. A second “Big One” occurred on lap 197, this time chewing up 18 cars and sending the 2012 Daytona 500 into overtime.
The restart on lap 201 was under the green-white-checker rule, and Kenseth held off Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. over two laps to score the victory in the Daytona 500 that didn’t want to end.