"I really couldn't have done much without the help of Mark Martin," said Earnhardt. "We just didn't have enough to get a run on Jimmie."
Danica Patrick finished in eighth place, which was the highest finish by a female driver.
Denny Hamlin took over the lead in the race and led for awhile.
The fifth caution of the day came out on Lap 172 after Jeff Burton’s No. 31 Chevrolet hit the wall and destroyed the front right side of his car, sending him to the garage. During the yellow, Scott Speed took the top spot for a couple of laps before being forced to pit.
That opened the door for Brad Keselowski to take the top spot going into the restart on Lap 181. Michael Waltrip moved into second with Jimmie Johnson third. Marcos Ambrose made a big move up to fourth.
Patrick moved into third after Waltrip and Johnson dropped back into the pack.
Keselowski and Johnson battled in the front of the pack.
The sixth caution of the day came out on Lap 191 for debris on the racetrack in Turn 2.
The race restarted with six laps to go and Johnson held on to win the race.
Matt Kenseth continued to lead the race.
On Lap 129, about a half dozen cars made their way into a green flag pit stop including Patrick. The stop reshuffled some of the running order as Hamlin and Clint Bowyer moved into second and third, respectfully behind Kenseth.
The fourth caution of the day came out after Brad Keslowski’s No. 2 Ford lost control of his car in Turn 3 and dropped down to the apron sending several other drivers into a nine-car pile-up which included Trevor Bayne, Carl Edwards, David Ragan and David Gilliland. The wreck also sent Austin Dillon and John Wise to the garage.
That left 26 cars on the lead lap at the restart of the race with 54 laps to go.
However, Kenseth’s day took a turn on Lap 149 when his No. 20 Toyota showed signs of smoke on the front, left side. It forced him to head to pit road and opened the door for Hamlin to grab the lead.
The third caution of the day came out on Lap 86 after there was debris on the backstretch providing the drivers a chance to hit up pit road for more fuel.
Two-time Daytona 500 Michael Waltrip, who is driving a special tribute car to honor the memory of the shooting victims at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, jumped into the top spot on the outside lane with Patrick on the outside when the green flag dropped.
Patrick’s No. 10 GoDaddy.com grabbed the top spot after the restart and became the first woman to lead the Daytona 500 on Lap 90. She takes the torch from Janet Guthrie, who back in 1997, led the Daytona 500 for five laps under caution though.
Her lead was short-lived when she dropped back to fourth.
Kenseth was back on top when the race crossed the 300 mile mark.
Tony Stewart returned to the track on Lap 120, just trying to make up some points for the start of the season.
Denny Hamlin grabbed the lead on the 77th lap followed by Martin Truex Jr. in the second spot.
The first caution of the day came out on Lap 26 due to metal debris on Turn 3 and many of the drivers took advantage of the situation to head to pit road. Gordon and Joe Nemechek both benefitted from the break as Gordon needed to clean off some debris on the front of his No. 24 Chevrolet while Nemecheck was able to catch up and get back on the lead lap.
Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet went sideways on Lap 32 after the restart and spun out taking out Juan Pablo Montoya and forcing Kevin Harvick into the infield grass. The crash also took out Patrick’s teammate and owner, Tony Stewart. Casey Mears, Brad Keslowski, Kyle and Kurth Busch and Jamie McMurray all suffered damage during the wreck, which involved nine cars.
After the restart, Clint Bowyer takes the lead at the 100 mile mark.
Much of this Speedweeks has centered around Patrick, who is looking to also become the first female to ever win The Great American Race.
The race started on a subdued note following a horrific crash during Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race, which took out part of the grandstand safety fence and sent at least 28 fans to various medical centers.
“I just want to reiterate how important our fans are to us,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said prior to the start of the race. “As we continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”
Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon joined Patrick on the front row.
Actor James Franco was the honorary starter while former NFL superstar Ray Lewis dropped the green flag on the race.
“Drivers and Danica, start your engines,” Franco said while giving the order to start the race.