Rain halts NASCAR’s premier event

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Matt Kenseth

How does a driver (Matt Kenseth) win the Daytona 500 by racing fewer than 400 miles? Read how national and local writers address an aspect of auto sports that drives both intense and casuals fans batty. Sort of like ending a decisive World Series game in the fifth inning. (Wait, that almost happened.)

Here’s what some writers are saying about the race.

After an offseason marred by news of crewmembers being laid off, sponsorships shrinking and teams folding, NASCAR tried kicking off its 2009 story line with a splash of celebrity mega-wattage. Tom Cruise. Gene Hackman. Keith Urban.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the talk of the Daytona 500 once again. Only this time it was all about a punt, not a pass.

Matt Kenseth drove from the back of the field to take the Daytona 500 lead minutes before the sky opened up, handing the former series champion his first victory in NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl.

There are no excuses for Dale Earnhardt Jr. He messed up Sunday. Actually, he messed up several times. He missed his pit stall. He stopped his car on the outside line of his pit box. He put himself and his team in a deep, deep hole and he was doing whatever he could try to dig himself out of it.

The most deserving driver did not win the Daytona 500 Sunday. Sadly and immaturely, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made sure of it.

Matt Kenseth’s voice wavered, the emotion pouring out as the rain poured down on Daytona International Speedway. Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, had lost the way to victory lane in the past year. But he found it again on Sunday at the most opportune moment, in the most important race of the year.

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