Qualifying was rained out Friday so the field was set by championship points. That meant that Jeff Gordon would be leading the field to the green for the twilight Pepsi 400. The green flag flew as the field stayed two by two for the first few laps. Gordon’s lead was short lived as Denny Hamlin got by him with 3 laps completed.
It was a night of many passes. The green didn’t last long as Kasey Kahne and Jeff Green got tangled up in the tri-oval which brought out the first caution of the night. Hamlin led the field back to the green with a single file restart. Gordon and Hamlin battled for the lead for the next 5 laps until the 2nd caution came out. Tony Stewart bumped Hamlin as Hamlin slowed in the corner which got Dale Earnhardt Jr. also caught up.
Stewart wasn’t happy with his teammate and voiced so on his radio. This ended any threats of victory for Stewart, Hamlin and Dale Jr. With 17 laps down all the leaders decide to pit to make some minor and major adjustments. After all the shuffling from pit stops Clint Bowyer came out in the lead with Martin Truex Jr. second. Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton followed suit. Bowyer led the field to the green but to only see the yellow back out with only two more laps in. Tony Raines hit the wall and spun to bring out the caution. With 26 laps in the books Clint Bowyer got the field back under way. Jamie McMurray quickly got by Bowyer to only find out 2 laps later that he was black flagged. With 40 laps in the books Dale Jr. is being lapped again by the entire field. His day continued to get worse after being involved in an earlier accident. At lap 43 he finally took his car to the garage. Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards both battled Kyle Busch for the lead as each lap seemed to see a new leader. Bowyer finally held the lead but with cars starting to spread out Kevin Harvick got bumped by Juan Montoya which forced him into the wall. This brought out the 4th caution as Harvick’s car started to smoke. With 60 laps down the leaders pitted to make additional adjustments. Once again Bowyer led the field back to green flag racing.
Bowyer led the next 12 laps as the Busch brothers followed closely behind. At lap 74 Bowyer fell off the pace as his primary ignition box failed. He fell to 20th before getting back up to pace. Matt Kenseth put his car into the top five at lap 105 with the top 6 cars starting to break away from the rest of the field. Green flag pit stops started with 52 laps to go. After the completion of green flag pit stops the Busch brothers were 1st and 2nd with only 47 laps to go. The 5th caution came as Sterlin Marlin lost a tire and hit the wall. The top 8 cars decided not to pit as several other drivers did. This included Jeff Gordon.
The Busch’s got the race back underway and continued to trade the top spot. With only 28 laps to go the 6th caution came out for spins by Bobby Labonte, John Andretti and Juan Montoya. David Ruetimann also tapped the wall during the spins. All the leaders hit pit road for final adjustments and fuel with Casey Mears being the only exception. Mears led the field to get the race back underway. With 18 laps to go Bowyer showed his car again in the lead as the cars started getting two and three wide. The race was on like restrictor plate racing was meant to be. David Gilliland brought out caution number 7 as he spun alone in the middle of the grass. The caution was over as quick as it came out as Bowyer was back underway with the lead.
Casey Mears got help from his teammate Jimmie Johnson as they both pushed past Bowyer. Jeff Gordon also got into the action as he passed Mears for the lead. As this battled continued the final caution came out as Joe Nemechek and Brian Vickers got caught up together and found themselves spinning each other out. With only 6 laps left none of the leaders pitted and the race to the checkered was on.
Kyle Busch was out front as Gordon and Jamie McMurray started to charge for the lead. With help from Gordon, McMurray got passed Kurt Busch to have a short lived lead. The battle was on between McMurray and Busch. Busch led lap 159 and seemed to have the preferred line going into the 4th turn on the final lap of the night. With a last second surge McMurray squeaked by Busch to get the win by only .04 seconds. It was one of the closest finishes at Daytona ever. It was McMurray’s first win in a 166 races and the first since Charlotte. The drivers now head to Chicago as the 2nd half of the season begins.