DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kevin Harvick nipped Mark Martin at the start/finish line to capture the 49th annual Daytona 500 - the closest Daytona 500 finish since the advent of computer scoring.
Harvick, who started seventh on the green-white-checkered finish, got drafting help on the outside from Matt Kenseth on the final lap and edged Martin at the start/finish line by less than a half a car length while a multi-car accident broke out behind.
"This is the Daytona 500, can you believe it?" Harvick said in Gatorade Victory Lane.
Martin, attempting to win his first Daytona 500 on his 23rd start, said the lack of drafting help coming off of Turn 4 proved the difference at the finish.
"When I looked up there at the end, I was minus any pushers," Martin said. "I didn't have any help to get it done and that's the way it goes."
Martin, competing in a part-time NEXTEL Cup schedule with Bobby Ginn Racing, was thrilled with the effort of the team that gave him an opportunity to win the Daytona 500.
"I want to say that I didn't ask for a win in the Daytona 500; I asked for a chance," Martin said. "Those guys gave me exactly what I asked for, and I let it slip away, slip through my fingers and I'm fine with that. I did my best."
Harvick, whose previous best finish in the Daytona 500 was fourth in 2003 and 2004, beat Martin by .020 seconds, the closest in Daytona 500 finish since the advent of computer scoring in 1993 and the eighth closest in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series overall.
Harvick's victory was Richard Childress Racing's first Daytona 500 win since Dale Earnhardt in 1998 and he also set a couple of Daytona 500 records in the process.
· His four laps led tied 1975 Daytona 500 champion Benny Parsons for the fewest laps led by a Daytona 500 winner.
· His starting position of 34th was the lowest starting position of a Daytona 500 winner.
· He became the fifth driver to win both the Daytona 500 and the Orbitz 300 NASCAR Busch Series in the same year.
"It's pretty incredible to be honest with you, to finally break that wall down and then win two days in a row, and then win the biggest race of the season," Harvick said.
"We've won the Brickyard 400 but I don't think there's anything that can match a Daytona 500 in stock car racing," Harvick continued. "This is what it is, and this is as big as it gets. I'm just glad that we're able to accomplish that."
With 47 laps to go, two cars that appeared to be top contenders to win the Daytona 500 crashed. Tony Stewart's No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet got loose in Turn 4 and then was nudged by Kurt Busch's No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge taking both cars out of the race.
Busch had led three times for 95 laps while Stewart led twice for 33 laps.
"It wasn't meant to be today," said an upbeat Stewart.
Academy Award-winning actor Nicolas Cage served as Grand Marshal for the Daytona 500 and delivered the starting command, "Gentlemen, start your engines."
Said Cage before the race: "I really want to enjoy each and every one of those words. I want to take my time with that. Those are probably my favorite words in all of sports."
Performing the NEXTEL Tribute To America was Kelly Clarkson, singing the national anthem was Big & Rich and serving as the Honorary Starter was Phil Parsons, brother of the late Benny Parsons.
Ticket information for the 50th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008 is available at www.racetickets.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.