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A day of bumps, bruises and breakthroughs Junior's hard-knock day among the main plots in Great American Race

The 51st Daytona 500 was shortened by the rain but there was no shortage of highlights.

Big winner: Matt Kenseth broke a 36-race winless streak by capturing the first Daytona 500 not only for him but for car owner Jack Roush.

Big loser: Dale Earnhardt Jr. completely missed his pit on one stop, incurred a penalty for being outside his pit box on another, and caused a 10-car wreck that took out several contenders. Then he complained about all of the above before getting it right: "Got no one to blame but myself."

Biggest heartbreak: Elliott Sadler had a tumultuous offseason in which he went to court to keep his job, started 30th on Sunday and was one lap from winning the race. "I was getting emotional in the car [before the race was called] thinking 'Wouldn't this be the coolest story?' . . . I had a lot of cool stuff going through my head. But you know, just wasn't meant to be."

Worst luck: For the second straight year, Kyle Busch had a great car and led the most laps (88 of 152). And for the second straight year, he got taken out in the Earnhardt-Vickers incident.

Worst move: Earnhardt went below the yellow line and plowed into Vickers' block, spinning out Vickers, causing a 10-car wreck that took out contenders Busch (41st) and seriously dented the hopes of Carl Edwards (18th) and Denny Hamlin (26th).

Best quotes: From Busch after being knocked out by Earnhardt: "One guy that had problems all day on pit road made his problems our problems and then our problems a big problem. . . . It cost the winning car the chance to win the race."

Youngest driver, shortest day: Phenom Joey Logano became the youngest driver to start the Daytona 500 (at 18 years, eight months and 22 days) but he finished last in the 43-car field after contact with Scott Speed sent him skidding through the grass and crashing hard into the wall leading to pit lane on the 79th lap.

Quick learner: After Logano was knocked out, the teenager said all the right things. "I don't think I should say what I'm feeling inside -- I'm not very happy, that's for sure."

Quicker learner: Kenseth's crew chief, Drew Blickensderfer, won the Daytona 500 in his first Sprint Cup race.

Best wreck: In this race's closest thing to "The Big One," Earnhardt sent Vickers veering up the track on lap 124, setting off a chain reaction that saw several cars kicking up dirt as they went sliding into the backstretch infield.

Best emotional roller coaster: Stewart on Saturday, which started with Ryan Newman and him crashing in practice and ended with him winning the Nationwide race. He went from "I'm ticked. I'm not happy, I'm not cordial, I'm not nice," in the morning to "ecstatic" that evening.

Best insult: One of several zingers by A.J. Foyt to buddy Tony Stewart during their joint press conference Saturday: "I'm proud to see him doin' what he is doin' because let's face it, they are going to have to deal with him for a few more years -- unless he gets too fat."

Best way to attract a sponsor: Todd Bodine and the unsponsored No. 30 truck won Friday night's season-opener. Lockport native Mike Hillman Jr. is the crew chief while his father is Germain Racing's general manager. "It's a crying shame that it doesn't have something on the quarter panels," Bodine said.

Wackiest promotional tie-in: Fox television's animated gopher named "Digger," who accompanies its cool shots from a camera embedded in the track, now has its likeness available in 25 products, and now the fuzzy little furball has four "friends" who have become stuffed animals as well.

Race fans, start your Valentine's Day 2010 planning: The 52nd Daytona 500 will be held on Feb. 14 next year.


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