Jimmie Johnson Wins Daytona 500

Jimmie Johnson has won the Daytona 500, one day after crash during a race there injured fans. Danica Patrick, who was hoping to make history, finished eighth. Jacki Lyden gets the latest from NPR's Mike Pesca.

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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

Thanks for sticking with us. It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden. And it's time now for a sports update. Today is the most important day on the NASCAR calendar, the Super Bowl of stock car racing. The Daytona 500 has wrapped up at the Daytona International Speedway, and NPR's Mike Pesca is there with an update on the action. Hi, Mike.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.

LYDEN: Hey, there. We got you. So who's the winner? Jimmie Johnson.

PESCA: How are you?

LYDEN: Hi.

PESCA: Yes.

LYDEN: We're good. Was this a surprise?

(LAUGHTER)

PESCA: Well, Jimmie Johnson is, of course, a really great driver, and it was an exciting race all along. But on the very last lap, there was a wreck in the back of the pack, and this means there was no passing. So let's just say the absolute finish of the race was a little anticlimactic. But Johnson battled. He passed Brad Keselowski on one of the final laps, and most of the racing here was what's called around the rim.

They would just take a high pass, and the cars would go more or less single file. Johnson was one of the few riders who came down a little bit challenged for the lead, and it worked out for him at the end. It was a really good race.

LYDEN: Well, you know, as a chick, I have to say we were watching Danica Patrick, first woman to start in the coveted pole position. That was exciting. How'd she do?

PESCA: Listen, she's an extremely popular and charismatic rider. And the answer is she did really, really well. In fact, I would say any unbiased source would say that - maybe any unbiased source, except for Danica Patrick. She's her hardest critic. In the post-race news conference, she cited her own relative inexperience, not knowing exactly, you know, how to make her move, but she was really in the top five or top 10 the whole race, except for pit stops.

All of her pit stops were clean. The first one was a little slow. And she was in third going into one of the last laps. Like I said, there was a crash and chaos. She finished eighth, first NASCAR driver who was a woman to finish in the top 10 with two top 10 finishes at the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona. That's pretty good for any rider.

LYDEN: And yesterday, there was a crash. Are spectators okay?

PESCA: Well, 14 spectators were taken to the hospital, and most of them were released. There is one who - there's actually conflicting reports, but one is said to be - have head injuries and life-threatening. But everyone was listed in stable condition. The - an engine from one of the cars or parts of one of the cars seems to - seemed to have ripped through a fence. That was repaired before the race. People for this race were sitting in the exact same area. There were no instances in terms of harm to any of the fans during this race.

LYDEN: Mike, we've got about 25 seconds left. There was a flashy new piece of auto technology out there, right, a Gen 6 car?

PESCA: Yeah. These cars are cool and new, and they're lighter. They don't have that big rear spoiler. And they're just going to take a little getting used to, not just the car, but how cars interact with the traffic. I think we saw that dictate a lot of the racing. Cars weren't going two by two. The drivers like to take that high part of the track which is 50 feet high in some parts. The Gen 6 car is here to stay, and everyone will have to get used to it.

LYDEN: Thanks. NPR's Mike Pesca. He spoke to us from the Daytona International Speedway. Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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