Matt Kenseth Wins Daytona 500 After Fire And Rain

Matt Kenseth has won his second Daytona 500, holding off Dale Earnhardt Jr. to end one of the more bizarre races in NASCAR history.

Cambridge-native Kenseth had Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle lined up behind him on the final restart, and Biffle played the role of dutiful teammate for the two laps of overtime. Earnhardt pulled out behind Biffle as they closed in on the finish line but couldn’t catch Kenseth.

Kenseth said winning the race was a special event for him.

“As a kid dreaming of being a stock-car driver and growing up in Wisconsin (with) dreams of stock car racing,” he said. “(I) watched it on TV, and always snow on the ground. (It) seemed like a world away. And (I) always dreamed of running in that race, and didn’t think that would happen. Now, to win this race twice is hard to put into words. (It’s) just a cool feeling.”

It was an anticlimactic ending after rain postponed the race for the first time in its 54-year history from Sunday to Monday. Then, came a frightening fire when Juan Pablo Montoya hit a safety truck, causing a two-hour delay.

Fans in Cambridge are celebrating Kenseth’s big win.

Roberta Oehrke traveled an hour to buy some new gear at the Matt Kenseth museum, located just off Highway 12 in Cambridge.

“I might just wear it to bed, Matt,” said Oehrke, holding up her new Kenseth T-shirt.

Some fans may have been in bed watching a drama-filled race, full of fiery crashes and delays. The 500-mile race lasted a record six hours.

“Honey, I’m old,” said Oehrke. “No, it was way past my bedtime anyhow.”

“Think I could go to bed and not see that finish? Couldn’t do that,” said Kenseth’s grandmother, Audrey Nasett, who has never taken her eyes off her grandson’s racing career.

“He lived next door to me when he started driving,” said Nasett. “We lived in Rockdale when he started driving. And when he was 16, you’d here that roar, that motor start.”

Father Roy Kenseth said he remembers long days on the tracks years before Daytona glory.

“The other night, before the Daytona, I was thinking of his first win at Rockingham, how cool that was,” said Roy Kenseth. “He was out there with a plain driver’s suit on and nobody in the world expected him to ever win a race, no sponsor, anything.”

“Growing up in Wisconsin, (Daytona) was a race we used to watch on TV,” said Matt Kenseth. “There would always still be snow on the ground. It seemed like a whole different world away.”

Matt Kenseth becomes just the eighth driver to win the Daytona 500 twice. His last win there was in 2009.

Nasett said that, above all, she is most proud of the man her grandson has become as a husband, a father and the kind of son he was to his mother, who lost her battle with early onset Alzheimer’s in January.