Dale Jr. wins, Dillon miraculously survives Coke Zero 400
In a green-white-checkered finish, Dale Jr. won the Coke Zero 400, followed by a huge crash involving cars behind him. One of the most spectacular races of the season had a very anticlimactic start since it began at 11:42pm instead of 8pm ET because of heavy rain at Daytona International Speedway.
Pole bearer Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the field but was overtaken by Austin Dillon who held onto the lead in the next eight laps. The first caution flag flew in lap 3 when a multi-car wreck occurred. When trying to drop in behind Dale Jr, David Gilliland failed to see Clint Bowyer who spun him around, piling ten cars. Joey Logano, Danica Patrick, Sam Hornish Jr, Bobby Labonte, Greg Biffle and Michael Annett were the unfortunate ones who were collected in the crash. Several cars pitted before the lane was opened, causing a huge number of penalties for premature entries.
On lap 9, the race restarted and on lap 10, Austin Dillon was overtaken by Dale Jr. On lap 17, Kyle Busch hit the wall while trying to overtake Jamie McMurray but there was no yellow flag until lap 26 and first scheduled caution. Jimmie Johnson was the fastest in the pits and emerged as the new race leader, whereas Biffle and Kyle Busch had to restart from the back because they had too many crew members out.
On lap 31, the race restarted with Earnhardt attacking Johnson, overtaking him on lap 32. However, Dale Jr’s lead was short lived because Johnson reclaimed it on lap 34. Everything was calm until lap 53 when Carl Edwards lost control of his car due to a flat tyre. Dale Jr. took advantage of the caution period to reclaim the lead by overtaking Johnson in the pits.
On lap 58, the race restarted but went yellow again when David Gilliland spun and stalled on track. On lap 64, the race restarted with Joey Logano, Jeb Burton and Kyle Busch in the back because of too many pit members and Johnson taking back the lead from Dale Jr. On lap 80 Matt Kenseth briefly had the lead but Johnson was soon back in the first spot.
Kyle Larson caused the fifth caution flag period when he spun on lap 86. Carl Edwards who was trying to avoid him spun as well and then got hit by Brian Scott. Stenhouse Jr. also had a spin, but managed to save his car. Denny Hamlin exited the pits as the leader, while Allmendinger, Edwards and Larson had to restart from the tail for premature pitting, alongside Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon who had too many pit crew members out.
On lap 93, Kasey Kahne took the lead but Hamlin took it back two laps later. Dale Jr. had it on lap 104 and on lap 105, there was an another big wreck which started when Kasey Kahne turned Matt Kenseth whose car ended up on track, collecting Aric Almirola, Larson, Truex Jr, Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Sam Hornish Jr, David Ragan and Trevor Bayne. With 46 laps to go, the race restarted and with 43 to go, Dale Jr. retook the lead from Johnson. Ten laps later, Danica Patrick cut a tire, causing a yellow flag period and the race restarted with 28 laps to go. With twelve laps to go, David Ragan caused the eighth caution and the race restarted on lap 151, with 10 to go.
Three laps later, the ninth and final caution flew for a backstretch spin by Sam Hornish Jr. The race restarted with three laps to go and Dale Jr. won, while the rest of the field was involved in a horrendous big crash. Austin Dillon hit Denny Hamlin, flipping over and hurling in the fence, ripping the engine out.
After the flip Dillon’s car landed roof down and was hit by Brad Keselowski. Luckily no drivers and fans were seriously injured, and Austin Dillon walked away out of the demolished car. Johnson finished the race in second and Hamlin was the third. Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch ended the race in fourth and fifth, followed by Gordon, Dillon, Newman, Bayne and Bowyer in top ten.