NASCAR Daytona 500: Jimmie Johnson wins, Danica Patrick finishes 8th
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (KABC) -- Five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson won his second Daytona 500 race on Sunday.
It was also a huge night for Danica Patrick, who made history as the first woman to lead laps in "The Great American Race." She passed Michael Waltrip on a restart on Lap 90. Then, she stayed on the point for two laps, but was shuffled back to third. Still, it was another groundbreaking moment for Patrick, who in 2005 as a rookie became the first woman to lead laps in the Indianapolis 500.
However, Johnson grabbed her spotlight as Patrick faded on the final lap. After slipping to third, she slipped further to eigth in the late push for position.
Patrick's fading began when Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his move, but even his last-minute effort wasn't enough to catch Johnson.
There were several crashes throughout the day, but none coming close to the magnitude of the wreck that injured at least 33 fans a day earlier in a second-tier race on the very same track.
The chaos began when Regan Smith attempted to block Brad Keselowski who was coming out of the final turn and approaching the checkered flag.
"I tried to throw a black coming of the turn," Smith said. "I knew Brad was trying to make a move."
"I made the move," Keselowski said. "He blocked it and the two together started the chain of events that caused the wreck."
As the cars kept crashing, three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart slipped by for the win.
Meanwhile, rookie Kyle Larson's car went airborne, crashing into the fence separating the track from the fans. The whole front of his car ripped off. A piece of the burning engine was seen lodged in the fence. A tire was also later seen lying on a seat, several rows up on the stands.
"I had flames come into the cockpit but luckily I was all right and could get out of the car quick," 20-year-old Larson said.
Emergency vehicles descended on the scene. Remarkably, all twelve drivers were checked out at the medical center located at the track and were said to be OK.
More than two dozen spectators were reportedly injured. Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said 14 fans were treated on site and 14 others were taken to hospitals. Local officials said 19 people were taken to neighboring hospitals, including two who were in critical but stable condition.
Speedway officials emptied and cleared the track as repair crews immediately got to work. Track workers scrambled overnight to repair a huge section of the fence that separates fans from the high-speed track and to ensure Sunday's Super Bowl of motorsports would take place as scheduled.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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