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Feb 28, 2012 1:41 AM by Kate Richards

Daytona 500 finally comes to a close

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A wild week of racing at Daytona has been capped by a memorable night in the first race of the Sprint Cup season.

Matt Kenseth led at the final restart and held off Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the Daytona 500. Greg Biffle finished third, followed by Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton.

It was quite a season-opening race that featured 10 cautions and a red flag that stopped the race for more than two hours with 40 laps remaining. Five-time Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick were involved in a multi-car wreck on the second lap, bringing out the first caution flag of the night. Patrick was able to continue following repairs that cost her more than 60 laps. Johnson did not return, and Patrick finished 38th.

The ninth caution came out with 13 laps to go as Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray and Brad Keselowski (kehs-LOW'-skee) were involved in a multi-car collision with Kasey Kahne (kayn) and Tony Stewart. Stewart was able to continue the race, only to be clipped in another wreck with four laps remaining. The last collision caused a two-lap restart to decide the race.

The race was red-flagged when Juan Pablo Montoya lost control of his car and slammed into one of the jet dryers brought out during the seventh caution. The truck and the track were engulfed in flames as fuel poured onto the track, halting the race at lap 160. Montoya was able to get out of his car without any help.

Thirteen drivers held the lead at some point by the time the race was stopped. One of the 13 was Jeff Gordon, who had to leave the race after 78 laps due to a blown engine. Martin Truex Jr. came away with a $200,000 bonus for leading at the midway point.

It's the first time the race has been held on a Monday as rain caused the event to be pushed back a day and a-half. The Daytona 500 ended about 36 hours after the scheduled start of the race.

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